Who had the job of finance minister from late 2004 until 2008? Who presided over the final great surge of credit in Ireland which drove the Tiger higher? Who emptied the state coffers to buy the 2007 general election, setting in stone a structural deficit of epic proportions? Who failed to offer any form of bank regulation or guidance? Who stood by and watched the nation gorge on debt and consumption? Who mortgaged our children's future to save the banking system and bail out the bankers? Who would do this to us and fail to see what they had done? Who would fail to show any remorse or offer any forum for truth?
In any reasonable country this person would be relieved of power. I do not seem to live in a reasonable country. I live in Ireland and this man's name is Brian Cowen. We need to talk about this, Brian. Please give us a forum where the public can ask questions and find out what happened. A couple of grilled bankers is a great hangover cure, with a side of fried politician.
The impression from the government is that they are a little too busy to get on with a banking inquiry. They seem nervous about its findings. I cannot understand this, as we all know the outcome. We have heard this tune before, and we have seen how the government treats its own at the corruption tribunals.
Brian, you have nothing to fear. You can fix the inquiry to blame the builders and Anglo. You can tell us all that Anglo Irish Bank was the main problem, and that AIB and Bank of Ireland were led astray. It will be difficult to absolve AIB and Bank of Ireland of causing the crisis, but as you tell us, nobody wanted those €500,000 a year salaries. The lucrative chief executive jobs had to go to the insiders. This was the only way. The builders can take the blame, and the people can take the pain.
I was part of the Celtic Tiger, and I am part of its collapse. The Tiger has been shot and we need to find the man holding the gun. We will find more one man. We will find a hunting party consisting of the entire establishment of bankers and politicians (and developers?) We will find that this hunting party has not taken any responsibility for the collapse. We will find them feeding off the Tiger's carcass, breaking it up, and selling off the most valuable parts. Tigers are rare because poachers kill them. Our Celtic Tiger may never return, because the poacher is now the game keeper. He is the taoiseach.
I want a real inquiry, with real truth. I know a lot about what went on in the banking system and I want to tell an honest inquiry about this. I want this inquiry to give me and others a forum to tell my story.
I want to tell how borrowing money was so easy. Easy does not even describe it. Everybody who took loans is responsible and I am not trying to remove this responsibility. I merely want to show people how easy the banks made it to borrow this money, at all levels.
The debt accumulated in the hands of a few selected winners whom we call the developers. These winners have now been exposed as fools, and they have turned into losers. The real losers are the Irish people, as we still have the same politicians.
I think of the Irish banking system collapse like a bar on a Friday night. The barmen and customers are buying and selling beer all night and things are clearly getting out of hand. Too much beer – or in this case debt – is being sold to people who can no longer make rational decisions as they are intoxicated on it. The manager responsible for the bar in this analogy is Brian Cowen. He should regulate how much beer or debt is being sold, and he also needs to regulate how much some customers are drinking.
As we all now know, Brian Cowen likes a pint or three. Rather than shutting down the party, he joined it and encouraged it higher. He, in the form of the government, profited from the party and he could not see its obvious collapse in a drunken heap.
It's a very special person who can close down the party early and act responsibly when everybody seems to be enjoying themselves. We need a special person like this to manage our country and this person is not Brian Cowen.
As we grapple with this country's hangover of debt, we need an inquiry into what happened. We need this inquiry to help us face the truth, even if we do not like what we see. The inquiry can act as a mirror in which we can see the truth about Brian, the banks, the builders, and ourselves. In this mirror we can find the truth. We may not like it but we can learn from it.
Simon Kelly is a former developer who writes a weekly opinion column for the 'Sunday Tribune'. The opinions expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of the 'Sunday Tribune'