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Coveney stands over 'army on streets' claims


Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

Picture: Sean Curtin

Simon Coveney

Defence Minister Simon Coveney is standing over his claim the army was being lined up to take to the streets to defend banks in the event of a financial collapse.

Mr Coveney revealed the Central Bank made a dramatic plea for a "fallback position" to be drafted to Taoiseach Enda Kenny sometime after the Coalition came to power in 2011.

Mr Kenny repeatedly refused to confirm any such contact with the Central Bank, despite being asked on three occasions.

But he emphasised the "perilous" state of the country's finances in 2011.

"I don't want to comment on the individual things that the minister referred to but to reflect that the situation the Government inherited was absolutely perilous... the situation was absolutely grave," he said in the Isle of Man.

Mr Kenny recalled the country came "perilously close to an economic abyss" when his Coalition came to power.

"I think it's an indication of just how bad things were that you had a situation where the State had about three months money left to pay social welfare, to pay gardai, the teachers and nurses and everything else," he said.

Mr Coveney was adamant a distinct request was made.

"The Taoiseach was getting briefed by the Central Bank that actually he needed to have a fallback position whereby the army may have to surround banks to protect them because we could literally run out of money," he told Newstalk's Lunchtime show.

Mr Coveney said the contact illustrated "how close to the edge we were as a country because of political mismanagement in the past" when Fine Gael and Labour came to power.

Later in the day, the minister stood by his claim but wasn't getting into discussion on any current plans for the army to provide back up in case of any civil unrest.

"No. Look, and even if there were (plans), operational details in the Defence Forces will always be something that isn't subject to public scrutiny, that's the job of the Defence Forces," he said.


Both the Central Bank and the Defence Forces declined to comment on Mr Coveney's statement.

But the Central Bank is believed to be bemused by the claim. Inside the bank, there was a view the minister was confusing issues in 2011 with back-up plans around the potential collapse of the euro.

Likewise in the army, there is no recollection of any such request for a plan to be drafted.

Tanaiste Joan Burton said there was a huge emphasis on security when the Coalition came to power because the Queen US President Barack Obama were about to visit.

"Thankfully, none of that contingency type of planning was necessary," she said.