"We were too greedy." That says it all about Seán Quinn. And he said it himself.
In a rare media appearance, Quinn gave a self-serving interview to RTE's Tommie Gorman on 30 January and admitted: "We have been caught. We have been caught more than most". He added: "We were not involved in anything, no impropriety at all."
Quinn was referring to his involvement in Anglo Irish. He bought 25% of the bank last year and later offloaded 10%, losing up to €1.5bn in the process. The regulatory authorities are now investigating how he offloaded his shares. Quinn has already been hit with record fines over his behaviour in buying the shares, and has had to step down as chairman of Quinn Direct.
Investigations into his dealings with Anglo will continue for some time so the jury is still out. But despite Quinn's attempts to distance himself from "impropriety", nobody can argue with his own assertion that he was "too greedy".
Walshe succeeded John Dillon as head of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) in 2006. While it would be unfair to blame either man for the current mess, farmers in general certainly have a lot to answer for.
The Farm Waste Management Scheme (FWMS) illustrates this. Introduced in 2006, the scheme helps farmers to upgrade slurry storage in line with EU rules. Instead, thousands of farmers used it to build new cattle sheds for themselves. This same group has already been paid millions in grants under the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme and Setaside.
There was a huge late rush of applications for FWMS grants from farmers and the result has been a staggering €500m-plus hole in the public finances as the government seriously underestimated what it would cost. The money will now be paid in stages over three years as it will cost some four times more than the €125m provided for by the Department of Agriculture in 2009.
When historians write about the 2009 banking crisis, four simple words will readily spring to
mind. These four words illustrate the gulf between the world of thousands of people losing their jobs and the world of 'fat cat' salaries.
A fortnight ago Goggin was asked what his salary was for last year. He replied with the four words, "less than two million".
Goggin must live in some sort of corporate bubble if he believed earning less than €2m would win him kudos with Joe Public.
Announcing his retirement on 19 January, Goggin said, "I am very proud of my almost 40-year career in Bank of Ireland serving the interests of its stockholders, customers and employees."
Joe Public is certainly not proud of Goggin's career, as he has presided over the fall of one of Ireland's two biggest banks. His one-way bet on the Irish economy did not pay off. We are all paying for that mistake now.
Through successive partnership agreements, O'Sullivan and the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation have not been behind the door in securing ever-lower taxes on industry, lighter workplace regulation and cuts in public spending.
The first national pay agreements in the late 1980s/early 1990s provided for very
low pay increases so Ireland could regain competitiveness. The sweeteners were
generous tax breaks which made for a
bigger increase in take-home pay. In effect, government was subventing employers' wage bills.
Now that it's payback time, employers have gone remarkably quiet. Having benefited from low tax on capital and labour during the boom, employers now need to 'return the favour' and try to keep on as many as possible of the hundreds of thousands of people they hired over the past decade.
Justice John Quirke headed the first public service benchmarking report which recommended a 'lotto' style payout of well over €1bn to the country's 350,000 public servants in 2002.
Quirke was chosen by the then finance minister Charlie McCreevy to chair the body that oversaw the biggest-ever giveaway to public servants.
The benchmarking body's task was to compare public servants' pay with that of private sector workers and adjust up or down accordingly.
It spent well over €3m on consultants before finally concluding that, on average, public servants were paid 9% less than their private sector counterparts. McCreevy refused to release the consultants' reports under the Freedom of Information Act, saying they were confidential.
Quirke was not available to lead the second benchmarking report in 2007.
It recommended that most public servants should not get any increase at all.
Though a well-intentioned idealist, Begg's failure to curtail the influence of powerful public sector unions has undermined the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' claim to represent all workers, just when they need it most.
Despite last Saturday's national day of protest, the public perception is that the unions represent relatively well-paid and secure public sector workers. Private sector workers feel unions are irrelevant to their increasingly perilous situation and as a result have deserted them. More than nine out of 10 public sector workers are in a union, compared to around one in five in the private sector.
To be fair to Begg, who led the charity Concern before taking the ICTU post, he has successfully pushed a wider social agenda under the partnership agreements. But the over-emphasis on the public sector means that, today, Begg is finding it hard to gather the support he needs to ensure partnership survives the recession.
It may have been Charlie McCreevy who introduced huge tax cuts since 1997, but it was PD philosophy he was following. And, after McCreevy's departure, it was the PDs who strongly argued for the most recent (and utterly unnecessary) cut in the top rate of tax.
While the wisdom of cutting taxes when the economy was already booming was questionable, the government got away with it as long as the booming property sector was producing billions in taxes. However, with the bursting of the property bubble, the country has been left with a tax base that is nowhere near enough to cover expenditure.
There in lies another key criticism of the PDs. The party was founded on the principle of fiscal rectitude. Yet, since 1997, the PDs has been part of a government where annual spending regularly increased by double-digit percentages. This was utterly unsustainable and the PDs must have known it. But the party was the watchdog that never barked.
The weakness of the regulatory system rendered Hurley largely powerless, and to be fair, he did issue warnings, via the Central Bank's quarterly reports, about excessive lending and about the property sector.
Under the regulatory system, the office of the regulator was not obliged to act on those warnings. But perhaps Hurley should have been more bolshie in his pronouncements. Given his stature, his was one voice that would have been listened to. Against that as governor of the Central Bank, he would have been careful not to stray into what might be deemed the political arena.
Neary has to shoulder much of the blame for the failures of the regulatory system. How did a situation arise in which 25% of the shares in the country's third-biggest bank were being traded via contracts for difference? Secondly, how was Anglo Irish Bank allowed to lend a minimum of €500m to 15 property developers? That was a failure of regulation on an extraordinary scale.
The regulator's office also failed to act on Central Bank warnings about domestic property and excessive lending. It was clear to the dogs in the street that traditional guidelines for mortgage lending were being breached, but nobody shouted stop. The much-heralded liquidity regime for the banks obviously wasn't all it was cracked up to be and serious questions remain about the financial regulator's handling of the banking crisis over the past 12 months.
Never was there such a downtrodden man as Seán Dunne, thwarted by the privileged set at every turn. Nothing is his fault. Asked once if he thought it crazy that property prices were lower in Paris than in Dublin 4, where he shelled out €379m for seven acres in Ballsbridge, he helplessly replied: "Of course it's nuts. It's nuts because the Irish people have driven Ballsbridge to that price."
The truth is that Seán 'I'm the Victim' Dunne has been at the heart of the ruling class for over a decade. He has consistently dodged questions about how much money he has contributed to Fianna Fáil. He was a regular in the Fianna Fáil tent at the Galway Races, and he and Bertie Ahern have been friends since the early 1990s.
A one-time secretary of Fine Gael, Fitzpatrick represented hospital consultants far too well for the survival of our ailing health service.
Hospital consultants are the only workers in the country who are paid more than €180,000 a year for their public duty and then allowed to double that and more in private work. To cap it all, the health service accommodates this lucrative private work by providing the beds and facilities for it.
When health minister Mary Harney set her sights on introducing a public-sector-only hospital consultant, the move was resisted by the Irish Hospital Consultants' Association. Eventually, after more than seven years of negotiating, a deal was struck last year on a new public-service-only hospital consultant, who will be paid a not inconsiderable €240,000 a year plus expenses and allowances. The irony is that the exchequer will not now have the funds to hire the extra 1,000 consultants on these new contracts that were promised almost 10 years ago.
Given that the economic tsunami has its origins in the property bubble, it is a supreme irony that one of the main figures responsible for adding volume to the tidal wave is the son of a former taoiseach with a messianic zeal for fiscal rectitude and the brother of a leading economist whose warnings about the dangers of a housing bubble have been constantly ignored.
Mark FitzGerald, son of Garret and brother of the ESRI's John, was not the only estate agent to capitalise on the property boom, but as chief executive of the largest estate agency during the boom, he tapped into the zeitgeist, harnessing our historic attachment to property ownership but reshaping it with Celtic Tiger values.
Today, as prices crash by as much as 50% in the leafy millionaire suburbs that Sherry FitzGerald specialised in, the ephemeral value of "sentiment" in bolstering the property market is becoming all too clear.
The former attorney general has been a formidable advocate of minimal regulation in the banking sector. He is a pivotal figure in Official Ireland, having chaired the review body on higher remuneration which sets salary increases for politicians, top civil servants and judges. He also chaired a remuneration commission for the defence forces in 1989.
A member of the shadowy Bilderberg Group, he is close to EU ambassador to the US John Bruton and his best friend is said to be the present AG, Paul Gallagher. He made his name as a senior counsel in high-profile medical negligence cases, and acted for the Goodman group at the beef tribunal.
Gleeson is very wealthy, with a home at Shrewsbury Road in Dublin, and was one of the investors in the Four Seasons Hotel. A director of the Gate Theatre, the National Museum of Ireland (and, formerly, Independent News & Media), he spent €3m on AIB shares at a time when the price per share was €21.95.
Bradshaw was appointed chairman of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority in May 1997. Also on the board was Seán FitzPatrick, then chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank. The DDDA's biggest deal was the Becbay consortium's €412m acquisition of the old Irish Glass Bottle site at Poolbeg, funded by Anglo Irish Bank.
FitzPatrick and Bradshaw both resigned from the bank's board last December after it emerged they hibernated loans with Irish Nationwide at the end of Anglo's financial year last September. The bank is being investigated for fraud. The pair's interlocking directorships extended to subprime lender Fresh Mortgages and they were both involved in the €95.73m purchase of the Atrium buildings at Sandyford, south Dublin. Other investors there were Denis O'Brien, Paul Coulson, Pat Gunne and Garry McGann of Smurfit Kappa, another Anglo director who resigned his directorship of the Dublin Airport Authority last week.
McNamara's building company, Michael McNamara and Co, built massive extensions to Trinity College and St Vincent's hospital, as well as redeveloping the Point Theatre, Lansdowne Road and the site adjoining the Gaiety.
The former Fianna Fáil councillor last year pulled out of a deal with Dublin City Council for five residential regeneration schemes. He was a prominent member of the syndicates that bought the Shelbourne Hotel and the Superquinn chain, also mopping up the Burlington Hotel, Champion Sports shops, buildings at Grafton Street, and the Great Southern Hotel in Parknasilla, where renovations were completed in time for then taoiseach Bertie Ahern to check in on his annual holliers.
McNamara was an habitué of the Fianna Fail's tent. He is redeveloping the old Dublin Glass Bottle site in Poolbeg with Anglo Irish Bank funding and won the contract to build the new prison at Thornton Hall. His home at Ailesbury Road in Dublin is said to be Ireland's most valuable private residence.
While in charge of the OPW, Parlon played his part in pumping up the property bubble. Among the OPW's most spectacular sell-offs of state property was a yard at Lad Lane in Dublin 2 which sold for €22.5m, followed a year later by the sale of the old veterinary college in Ballsbridge to developer Ray Grehan for €85.7m an acre.
As the minister with responsibility for decentralisation, Parlon commissioned new buildings around the country to house relocated civil servants. During his five years as a TD, he resisted proposals for a ceiling on the obscene prices being achieved for speculators' land, mostly sold by his old constituent, the farmer. So in many ways, he was a natural bedfellow for the Construction Industry Federation. The price he paid was to be spat at outside the Labour Court where he went to seek a 10% pay cut for construction workers.
Economists, like bookies, are bound to get some things right. Sadly, Dan McLaughlin has not always proved reliable. In November 2007, when construction was already feeling the pinch, he said: "House building will not fall forever, and our expectations of a growth rebound in 2009 is partly due to a forecast upturn in completions in that year." Famous last words, as they say.
The Co Donegal native has probably been pilloried more than other commercial economists because of his performance on Questions & Answers during the Irish Ferries controversy when he argued that the company's decision to outsource was entirely justified. The bank later issued an apology.
Author of the worst-timed book ever, economist Marc Coleman brought out The Best is Yet to Come in 2007, just as the Celtic Tiger was skulking away. Newstalk's economics editor and former Irish Times writer has, maybe unfairly, become a whipping boy for the blunders of his profession. An expert self-promoter, he has admitted to editing his own entry in Wikipedia and is on the books of Speaker Solutions, an outfit that supplies celebrity speakers for hire.
Eugene Sheehy arguably has most responsibility for the mess in banking and the wider economy. Yet he is one of the few who has escaped serious censure.
A few years back, AIB sold (and leased back) its HQ in Ballsbridge – a recognition that property prices were about to peak. Yet it didn't follow that logic in its lending, aggressively expanding its loan book and its exposure to commercial property. We know all about how Anglo rocketed lending. We hear less about how AIB was doing much the same thing under the stewardship of Sheehy, although there is absolutely no suggestion of any wrongdoing at AIB.
To say that a lot happened on David Drumm's watch during his tenure as the CEO of Anglo Irish Bank is certainly an understatement.
On 22 September 2004, when Drumm took up the lucrative post, shares in Anglo were valued at €14.82 in Dublin. On 19 December 2008, when the 42-year-old resigned from the troubled bank, the shares had dropped to just 33 cent, marking a drop of €14.49 under Drumm's tenure.
In September 2007, The Sunday Business Post reported, "For those who had doubted whether chief executive David Drumm could take up where his predecessor, the legendary Seán FitzPatrick, had left off, it was worth noting that FitzPatrick's last year in charge in 2004 had delivered pre-tax profits of €500m, around 40% of what Drumm has signaled for the current year."
By this account Drumm had managed to eclipse "the legendary Seán" and made even more money for Anglo. We all now know that eclipsing 'Seánie' was by no means something to be proud of.
In reality, he presided over the bank's culture of reckless lending, non-existent self-regulation and corporate governance, causing untold damage to the country's reputation and an as-yet unknown cost to the taxpayer.
Despite Anglo being the 'basket case' of banking, Drumm was paid more than €40,000 a week or €2.2m for the 12 months up to September last.
So here we are, a nation in the agonising throes of atoning for our sins. And where's the man who was in charge of the good ship Titanic for the past 11 years? Honduras. We jest not. People are losing their jobs and their homes all over the country. The nation has lost its reputation. But Bertie Ahern soldiers on, selling the secrets of the Celtic Tiger lodestone to unsuspecting, far-flung audiences. One week, he's addressing international real estate investors in Manhattan. The next week, it's Tegucigalpa, where burgeoning Honduran entrepreneurs queue up to pay $150 each to hear the former taoiseach's dissertation on 'The Celtic Tiger: the Irish Model of Development'.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Leinster House, the monthly pay cheque of about €8,000 is dutifully made out to backbencher Bertie Ahern, along with an annual index-linked pension of €164,000. There is a time-honoured tradition that ex-taoisigh get paid in absentia, even when they've left a trail of devastation in their wake. Most TDs attend the Dáil fewer than 100 days in the year. Ex-taoisigh make an appearance three or four days. It frees them up for the lucrative lecture circuit and the company directorships. While he is in tribunal limbo-land, awaiting Judge Alan Mahon's final report, the offers of directorships have been sparse. Unsurprisingly, one he has gratefully accepted is with a property development company. He always got on well with the builders.
Not that Bertie Ahern was ever bothered with material trappings. His singular genius was the way he could hob-nob with the rich – displaying a salivating admiration for them – while creating the impression that he was with the people, shaking their hands and kissing their babies. Sure, the poor fellow didn't even have a bank account when he was the minister for finance and sanctioning tax breaks for super-wealthy individuals.
Ireland's most famous socialist saw nothing wrong with stuffing state boards with his cronies. He made his buddy Joe Burke chairman of Dublin Port, twice. He got his partner, Celia Larkin, onto the National Consumer Agency. His fundraiser-in-chief, Des Richardson, and his pal, Chris Wall, made it onto the board of Aer Lingus while the taxpayer still owned it. His constituency treasurer, Dominic Dillane, is a director of Fáilte Ireland. One of his so-called dig-out donors, Jim Nugent, was chairman of Cert, whose HQ was built in Ahern's Dublin Central constituency. And so on.
When he announced last spring that he was leaving office (a decision, he protested, unrelated to his humiliation in the witness box at Dublin Castle), Ahern was credited with a two-pronged legacy: peace in the north and a booming economy. So much for the hyperbole of encomiums. It was already an inescapable reality that he was handing back a more unequal society than the one he inherited in 1997, despite inviting Fr Seán Healy to his party think-in at Inchydoney and his own occasional eulogies to social capital.
He was nothing if not a fixer. He fixed the succession to himself as Fianna Fáil leader and taoiseach by anointing Brian Cowen years before his departure. He fixed it for Beverly Flynn's return to the fold before he waltzed away. He's been endeavouring to fix it for himself for the presidency in 2011. At this remove, his chances of making it to the áras are worse than the odds on Black Beauty winning in Cheltenham – not because of what is contained in the Mahon report but because his rich, donor-builder pals are fast running out of the spondulicks needed for a presidential campaign.
The man who brought the house of cards tumbling down when his smoke-and-mirrors bank loans to himself were uncovered, Seánie will not be forgiven by the rest of the boys. Last year, his personal wealth was estimated at €55m. This year, it's somewhat reduced after shares in Anglo Irish Bank plummeted and the company was eventually commandeered by the state.
In October, Seánie was pontificating on national radio while expressly withholding an apology to the people. As far as he was concerned, he said, he did nothing wrong. He clung to the sort of arrogance he displayed when, addressing a business lunch in 2007, he proclaimed: "In my humble opinion, our wealth creators should be rewarded and admired, not subjected to the levels of scrutiny which known criminals would rightly find offensive."
He shared his fondness for light regulation with former finance minister Charlie McCreevy. The two articled together as trainee accountants in Ernst & Young in the 1960s.
After the state had hatched its €400bn-plus guarantee scheme to save his bank, he publicly urged finance minister Brian Lenihan to abolish universal pensions and cut company tax. "Reaction to a wealthy banker, fresh from tapping the public purse, telling the government to tighten the belts of its weakest citizens, was predictably hostile," observed USA Today.
The pedestal on which Seánie had been placed by the upper echelon of Irish business is quite incredible. He was universally lauded as a gifted businessman and a maverick who rose to the top through sheer brilliance. His move from chief executive to chairman was considered contrary to best practice but nobody uttered a word of objection. As chairman in 2006, he was paid a salary of €320,000, boosted by €533,000 in bonuses.
Anglo was the banking incarnation of the Ryanair macho ethos. He took gambles, and revelled in risk. In 2006, a quarter of all Irish working men were employed in construction, and home-buyers, armed with crazy mortgage approvals, were queuing outside new developments to buy into the property euphoria.
Anglo had branches in New York, Chicago and Boston. In the latter city, it sourced and financed the acquisition of trophy buildings, including one costing €42m, which set a price record in the district.
Back in Dublin, rugby-mad Seánie was doing his own bit of dabbling in the property market. He was a state-appointed director of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority – where fellow Anglo director Lar Bradshaw was chairman – when it announced the redevelopment of the Glass Bottle site in Poolbeg. Seánie's other directorships were with Aer Lingus, Smurfit Kappa (whose chief executive, Gary McGann, was a director of Anglo until last week), Greencore and Experian. Until his retirement in disgrace in December, the expectation was that he would be crowned head honcho at the Institute of Chartered Accountants this year.
You know the country is up the spout when normally sensible people call for the repatriation of Charlie McCreevy to the department of finance. For there is a broad view that the Kildare accountant may well have been the worst finance minister in the state's history. To opponents of liberal capitalism, he is the horns on the economic devil that lured us into our predicament.
An advocate of light regulation, low taxes and disciplined spending, McCreevy was the luckiest finance minister ever. He presided over a boom that saw state expenditure rise by almost a quarter in 2001 and a time when budget surpluses were so vast the mandarins in his office had trouble counting all the zeros.
In contrast to his political soulmate Mary Harney, he is an unapologetic ideologue. He is the ultimate disciple of light regulation in the financial sector. Even 16 months ago, commenting on the loss of investor confidence in Northern Rock, he blamed what he saw as excessive rules, saying that had access to analysis of the bank's conduct "been restricted, then the trouble could have been avoided".
Like his former boss, Bertie Ahern, McCreevy prides himself on his down-to-earth persona. He did not endear himself to certain earnest economists, who tried to warn him of a looming downturn only to be excoriated as 'pinko liberals'.
Like many others who were embedded in Ireland's ruling elite, he likes to portray himself as a maverick outside the consensus, an image bolstered by his involvement in the 1980s Club of 22 that mounted an attempted putsch against Charlie Haughey's leadership of Fianna Fáil. More recent facts, however, show how immersed he was in the elite circle that rose to the top in boomtime Ireland.
One of the earliest controversies after he became finance minister erupted when it was revealed that he, tánaiste Mary Harney and some of their friends had holidayed in the French villa of businessman Ulick McEvaddy. The founder of Omega Air was trying to win approval at the time to build an independent terminal at Dublin airport.
McCreevy was again embroiled in controversy when the Comptroller & Auditor General reported on the state's bizarre decision to fund the construction of an equestrian arena at Punchestown racecourse in Kildare. Famous for his love of horse-racing (he had railed against betting taxes while in opposition), one of the first budgetary measures he introduced was to slash the tax, watched that budget day by the then boss of Paddy Power bookmakers from his front row seat in the public gallery at Leinster House.
McCreevy, whose gated, expansive home was built by Seán Dunne, did his apprenticeship as an accountant with the antecedent company of Ernst & Young, alongside one Seánie FitzPatrick, late of Anglo Irish Bank.
Loyalty has been the leitmotif of Brian Cowen's career in politics. It has also threatened to be his undoing. His heir-in-waiting tolerance of Bertie Ahern during the latter's tribunal denouement would have damaged a deputy who commanded less passionate support among his own parliamentary ranks.
Since coming to power, his spontaneous defence of former Fás boss Rody Molloy in the face of strong evidence of loose standards in the state agency has left him vulnerable. His mentor Albert Reynolds once claimed the younger man was known as his "loyal mongrel". Alan Dukes called him "the Gurrier-in-Chief".
It was the ushering in of Reynolds' country-and-western set to take the helm of Fianna Fáil in 1992 after Haughey's departure that gave the Offaly solicitor his first break, a succession which Cowen's membership of the Gang of Four had previously tried to precipitate.
As part of a coalition with the once-hated PDs, Cowen famously told a Fianna Fáil árdfheis in the warm-up for his leader's address to the faithful: "If in doubt, leave them out".
In a show of genetic party loyalism, his first act on becoming taoiseach 15 years later was to create a dynastic troika at the head of his party: Cowen, his finance minister Brian Lenihan and his tánaiste Mary Coughlan are all children of deceased Fianna Fáil TDs.
There has never been a hint that Brian Cowen – unlike his predecessors Haughey and Ahern or former cabinet colleague Ray Burke – is ethically dodgy, and opposition politicians are diligent in prefacing their Dáil barrackings with pronouncements to this effect. (Although no explanation has ever been given for his attendance, as the sole Fianna Fáil TD, at a party in the Conrad Hotel to celebrate the granting of planning permission to a consortium that controversially planned to build a casino in the Phoenix Park.)
Cowen did leave himself open to criticism when, during his transition to the top job last year, he attended a private dinner with Anglo Irish Bank at a time when its shareholding was a matter of concern.
The drift that has marked his time as taoiseach began during his watch in the department of finance, where his fiscal sins were more of omission than commission.
In his first budget after he replaced capitalist ideologue Charlie McCreevy, he increased public spending by nine per cent. His third of four budgets in anticipation of the 2007 general election is widely regarded as one of the biggest giveaway budgets in the history of the state.
His last budget, including his capitulation on stamp duty reform – forced upon him during the election campaign – was greeted with cheers from the builders' lobby.
There is no danger that Cowen's tenure as finance minister will be looked back on as a time of prudential management of the economy. As taoiseach, he is in the awkward position of having to remedy a crisis that is partly of his own making.
The above 24 people were chosen by Sunday Tribune journalists, but who have we left off our list? Do Seán and Sheila Citizen deserve opprobrium for living beyond their means in the good times? What about newspaper editors who fuelled the property boom with garish supplements? The 25th person can be decided by Sunday Tribune readers, by post to 15 Lower Baggot St, Dublin 2, by email to email@example.com, or online at tribune.ie. All comments will be moderated.