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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] The Deputy will be aware of the changes that have been brought about in regard to the rights of the consumer as distinct from the rights of the lender, the periods of time that must elapse-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin They have already been reduced.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----and the process that must be gone through by the banks in regard to persons who have borrowed money from them and are the subject of mortgage distress.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The lender takes all.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny This has been, and is, a very difficult time for many people. As I said, we are now moving in the right direction, with significant numbers of people being offered restructured and, one hopes, sustainable exits from the distress in which they find themselves.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Exits from their homes.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The ongoing revelations from the Anglo tapes continue to anger and outrage citizens. When I raised this issue with the Taoiseach last week, much of the focus was on who from within Fianna Fáil met the bankers. I also invited Deputy Martin, who was then a senior Minister in the Cabinet, to make a statement to the Dáil setting out which Fianna Fáil Ministers had met the bankers.


Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams There has been no response from the Fianna Fáil leadership.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I made a statement.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I also asked the Taoiseach whether tapes from any other banks exist-----

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The Boston tapes.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams -----and he told me that he did not know. I then asked if he would find out if other tapes existed. Does the Taoiseach know now, a week later, if there are similar tapes in the other banks affected, including Irish Nationwide Building Society, Allied Irish Banks, the Educational Building Society, Bank of Ireland and Irish Life & Permanent?

We all know that Anglo Irish Bank received €30 billion of taxpayers' money and that the other banks between them received almost €35 billion. This means more than €64 billion has been taken from the pockets of citizens.

Do we know if phone calls between these banks and the Central Bank were recorded by the Central Bank? The Taoiseach said that there are no files of any value in the Department of the Taoiseach, although that is contested by Fianna Fáil. Are there files in the Department of Finance or Central Bank that would shed more light on what happened?

I am sure the Taoiseach has met real and understandable cynicism from many people about whether the Government proposes to address these matters. I suppose that is inevitable given the close relationship between the golden circles, some politicians, developers and speculators. This was reinforced by some of these bankers being rewarded with well-placed and highly paid jobs.

In terms of regaining public confidence, central to that is knowing if there are tapes available in relation to the other banks and files on the matter in the Department of Finance and Central Bank.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The answer to the Deputy's questions is yes, there are tapes available in the other banks. The Minister for Finance will be writing to those banks tomorrow requesting that the tapes be preserved in the interest of their being available for a banking inquiry, the form of which will be considered following the passage of the relevant legislation through the Houses.

The tapes referred to in respect of the former Anglo Irish Bank only came to notice following their confiscation under warrant by the Garda Síochána. The tapes were then forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, arising from which a number of files have been prepared by the Garda Síochána and Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Deputy Adams will be aware that a number of charges have been laid against individuals.

There is information available in the Department of Finance, copies of some of which have been taken by the Garda Síochána. However, there is not a series of tape decks in the Department of Finance, similar to those contained in the banks. I am assured by the Minister that all of this information will be available for public discourse in the context of the inquiry to be held when Government makes it decision as to the appropriate form of that inquiry.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Taoiseach will excuse me if I am a little discommoded by the fact that the Minister is to write to the banks tomorrow.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte He will get the letters out this evening.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams This all happened four or five years ago. The Government did not know last week if any tapes existed. Conveniently, the Minister for Finance is going to rush out of the Chamber now and write a letter that will be sent to the banks tomorrow. Is this the type of approach the Government is taking to these issues? There is a sense that there is one law for the well-connected and rich, another law for citizens and no law for some.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan The Deputy is dead right.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I do not believe what the Government is doing at this late hour is sufficient. I also do not believe anyone else will be persuaded about its intentions in this matter. The Government's handling of these matters has been dismal and is part of the national disgrace that this whole debacle brought upon ordinary citizens, including the Taoiseach's neighbours, family members and constituents.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I remind Deputy Adams that the Government has set in place an entirely new system of regulation and monitoring in terms of the manner in which banks in this country operate. The Deputy will be aware that the dysfunctionality of our banking system in terms of the number of banks here has changed. Some banks were recapitalised, new conditions now apply and, in terms of mortgages, new targets and objectives are to be set.

The Deputy is wrong that the Government is only acting now in respect of the tapes that exist in other banks.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Government did not even know they existed.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny There is a legal requirement on the banks to retain those tapes for a set period. The Minister's letter is merely a reminder to the banks to live up to their responsibilities in terms of preservation of those tapes, which should be available for public information purposes and the banking inquiry to be established under the parliamentary system. It is a case of the banks having a legal responsibility to hold these tapes for a period and the Minister sending them a letter to remind them of that responsibility, so that they will be available for the public inquiry when the Government decides what form it should take.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Does the Garda Síochána have copies of the tapes?

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Would the Taoiseach agree that Edward Snowden is an international hero? This young man, who has a promising career and loving family, one which he is unlikely to ever see again, has become an international exile for the crime of releasing information in the public interest. The information released was of large-scale US surveillance not only of US citizens or its perceived enemies but of its so-called friends, the institutes of the European Union. It is a bit of stretch to say that surveillance of the European Commission has anything to do with the war on terror. It is much more likely to be linked to the imminent EU-US trade talks.

It is somewhat ironic that if Iran or North Korea engaged in this activity, there would be a clamour for something to be done. Instead, all we have is deep shockwaves throughout the international community, with no great response at other levels. Edward Snowden has put the spotlight on the need to deal with the issue of surveillance. As the European Court of Human Rights rightly warned, a system of secret surveillance for the protection of national security may undermine or even destroy democracy under the cloak of defending it.

As far as I am concerned, Edward Snowden has done a huge service. Given the manner in which he is being treated, the withdrawal of his passport and the US leaning on countries that may offer him asylum, Edward Snowden is in real danger of being persecuted should he be returned to the United States, not least because of the treatment meted out to Bradley Manning or the fact that President Obama has gone after whistleblowers more than anyone else, having already filed charges under the Espionage Act against eight people, which is twice the number against whom charges were filed by his predecessors.

When Ireland joined the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Tánaiste rightly said that it provided us with an opportunity of playing an active role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide and to make a distinctly Irish contribution. That day has come. Edward Snowden is in grave danger. What is the point in Ireland being a member of this body if it is not going to do anything about this situation? On that basis and in the public interest, I ask the Taoiseach to condemn the actions of the US Government in its hounding of Edward Snowden and countries that might offer him asylum. Will the Taoiseach confirm that Edward Snowden has applied to the Irish authorities for asylum and will he unequivocally support that application and give him refuge in this country?

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