independent.ie– The Taoiseach has stunned the Dáil by claiming the banks were not bailed out – when they were given €64bn in borrowed State liquidity that will take generations to pay back.
Micheál Martin tersely told Richard Boyd Barrett TD: “The banks were not bailed out.”
A surprised Mr Boyd Barrett, Solidarity People Before Profit TD for Dun Laoghaire, replied: “They were.”
The extraordinary rescue of the whole financial sector since 2008 has saddled every working adult in is country with a debt of €32,000 per head.
The Taoiseach continued: “Shareholders in the banks were not bailed out. The State took equity.”
The exchange arose on Opposition claims that a €3m Government offer for retraining of redundant Debenhams workers was an insult.
“The failure by the Government to ensure justice for these workers is appalling,” Mr Boyd Barrett said.
“I remind the Taoiseach that he said he could not put money on the table because it would set a precedent. The sum of €18m is owed to the State by Debenhams. The Taoiseach did not mind setting a precedent when it came to bailing out banks to the tune of €64bn.”
The Taoiseach interrupted to say Deputy Boyd Barrett was “acting the populist”.
He said: “I am sickened by the way Deputy Boyd Barrett leads people up the hill all the time, pretending there are easy simplistic solutions.”
The Taoiseach then declared “I will talk to Deputy Boyd Barrett about the banks. The banks were not bailed out.”
Mr Martin then sought to clarify: “The shareholders were not bailed out. That is not a popular thing to say, but it is a fact.
“Deputy Boyd Barrett never wants to hear the facts because he lives in a fantasy economic wonderland. If his party ever got into power thousands of jobs would migrate from this country. That is the reality.”
Mr Boyd Barrett said there had been ‘no moral hazard’ and no worry about the implications of giving billions to the banks a decade ago, “but when it comes to workers who have worked for decades, who have done nothing wrong, and who are entitled, we cannot underwrite them. We cannot guarantee to give them what they deserve, which is what even now the Government should do, and then it should pursue Debenhams.
“The Government is just standing idly by while the workers, who are the most decent people one could imagine, and who have worked for this company are cruelly betrayed. It is saying there is nothing it can do.”
Mr Martin said: “I said that we would do everything we possibly could within the law.”
Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien was slow to use the phrase bailout when asked about the Taoiseach’s comments on RTÉ’s Drivetime this evening.
He initially said the “financial system was supported”, adding that he wasn’t in the Dáil for Mr Martin’s comments.
“Everyone knows what happened 10 years ago,” he added.
Put to him that Mr Martin seems not to remember, Mr O’Brien eventually admitted: “There was obviously equity put into the banks so the banks didn’t fail… one of the ways of describing that is indeed a bailout.” He said it was important to remember why that was done.
It was the last day for the Taoiseach in the Dáil, and he paid tribute to the Ceann Comhairle, ushers and staff, wishing al a Happy Christmas. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar stands in for the Taoiseach on a Thursday, with the House due to rise for the Christmas holidays tomorrow.