Nobody is named in either the report of the Central Bank Governor, Patrick Honohan, or that of international banking experts Klaus Regling and Max Watson. Finance minister Brian Lenihan somehow believes this offers Taoiseach Brian Cowen some level of protection. He is badly wrong. The shadow of those in charge looms large over the shocking, but hardly surprising revelations made. Nobody is being fooled.
Former finance minister Charlie McCreevy, whose sum of knowledge of fiscal philistinism was "If I have it, I'll spend it", opened out the public purse from 2001 and allowed spending to run completely out of control. He felt no responsibility not to squander money, no responsibility to rein in Bertie Ahern's 'please everybody' spirit of leadership and no duty to the people of Ireland to save anything for a rainy day.
Minister Mary Harney, whose Progressive Democrat pro-free market model had much to contribute to the mess we got into, also tried to wriggle free of personal responsibility last week. There was no problem with the regulatory framework, it was simply the interpretation of regulation and its failure that was at fault, argued the woman who believed that cutting taxes was "the key to Ireland's tremendous economic performance".
As the Celtic Tiger began to stir she said: "The biggest threat to our continued economic prosperity comes from socialists, European Socialists who are envious of our low-tax regime and who want to foist on us the kind of punitive tax rates that have saddled them with massive unemployment. Socialism has never been very popular in this country and the last thing we want to do now is import it from Europe." A dozen years later it turns out that the legacy of Harney and her Fianna Fáil partners poses the biggest threat we have ever faced and socialism, in the brand of the Labour party, is the largest political party in the country.
Harney's friend and colleague in government, the well-known socialist Bertie Ahern, has kept his head down since the banking reports were published. He knows who is to blame. In an interview last October he was very specific – it was the collapse of Lehman Brothers that did the real damage to the Irish economy: "That decision will in history be written as the biggest mistake that American administration ever made, because Lehmans was a world investment bank. They had testicles [sic] everywhere," he said.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen's response to the banking reports clung to the vindication of the government's fiscal policy since the banking guarantee was issued in September 2008, but skimmed over the appalling judgement exercised prior to that. While accepting the policies he introduced as finance minister led to this "deeply challenging" situation for Irish people, and expressing regret for that, he nonetheless pointed the finger at the Central Bank and the ESRI who provided the data.
On last Thursday night's Prime Time, in a stunning example of how he still doesn't get it, the Taoiseach tried to argue that it is government's job to fix the situation when bad things happen. Good governance actually means allowing for unforeseen circumstances and having a Plan B. His contrition is very limited. Like his predecessor, he cites the Lehman Brothers collapse as the catalyst and seems to have difficulty understanding the clear and stark words of the experts: this was a homegrown crisis.
Honohan, Regling and Watson could not have been more unequivocal in apportioning responsibility for the boom that bust – misguided economic policies by government, poor financial regulation and lousy lending policies by the banks.
Cowen's demeanour at the launch of the reports struck a sharp contrast with his exuberant smile in pictures of him when, as finance minister, he revealed the budget of 2007. That year's budget was singled out by both reports as one that encouraged the boom. In the words of Regling and Watson, it "added markedly to the overheating of the economy".
The elevation of the Labour party to No 1 status in last Friday's Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll tells its own story about who the Irish electorate believes. Whether Eamon Gilmore could become the kingmaker or even the king after the next general election remains to be seen, but it is clear that Enda Kenny and his alternative front bench have failed to convince a more demanding electorate that they have the mettle to tackle the crisis. The exhortations of Gilmore and his colleague Joan Burton that Fianna Fáil protected a golden circle of their banker and developer friends are resonating.
Honohan said the popularity of Anglo Irish Bank bosses such as Sean FitzPatrick, who were well liked in political circles, may have contributed to them being left in their positions after the September 2008 bank guarantee. Earlier that year, while Brian Cowen was finance minister, he attended a private dinner with the Anglo board.
However, the taoiseach asserts that the people of Ireland are mistaken if they think there was any significance in going to dinner with FitzPatrick, David Drumm and their top team. He claims he didn't know what was going on in Anglo in 2008 (remember that small matter of transferring €7bn from Irish Life and Permanent to Anglo in September 2008 to dress up Anglo's balance sheet and hide a run on its deposits). If he didn't know he should have.
The Taoiseach is still asserting that Anglo is of systemic importance, but he hasn't explained why. The Irish taxpayers have no evidence, other than the word of the government, that it will cost more to wind it down than the €22bn being paid by this generation and future generations to prop it up. And the government's 'trust us' mantra holds no weight anymore.
The problem is that Brian Cowen, identified by name or not, is synonymous with cronyism and a shameful era of lazy governance. People can change, but there is no indication in his demeanour, his excuses or his utterances that he can or will.
Noel Dempsey asserted last week that Brian Cowen was the man who led us into the crisis but that he is also the right man to lead us out. It's a question that Fianna Fáil's backbenchers should ask themselves in advance of the opposition's No Confidence motion in the Taoiseach on Tuesday.
It's a question that the Irish people will also ask themselves when they come to vote in the next election. The results of Friday's opinion poll, taken before the release of the banking reports, debunks any notion that the electorate doesn't know what is going on.
Never again will the Irish people fall for the "I won it on a horse" defence that got former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern through the last general election. We were a very different country then. Nobody may have been identified by Honohan, Regling and Watson but everybody knows. And everybody will know for generations to come. Our children and our grandchildren will be paying for their recklessness.