Three years ago this week– 22 billion lost into Anglo Irish Bank, and a FG leadership contest.

Almost exactly 3 years ago, the Fine Gael leadership context was taking place, and on the same day, the then Irish Government confirmed that 22 billion euro which had been sunk into the zombie Anglo Irish Bank would never be seen again.

I criticised the relevance of Labour party leader Eamon Gilmore querying this loss in the Dail and questioned his logic in saying that this money could have been spent on hospitals and services. The logic still holds- it was not spending but efficiency that Ireland that needed, then and now – but, with hindsight, I may have been over harsh.

Certainly, what we could not then have known was how much of this money would have to paid for in stealth taxes and cuts. This was all ahead of us, on that day.  We could also have sorely done with that money for an economic stimulus now.



“Twenty-two-billion euro would keep that €5.5bn going for four years with all of the jobs that would be provided,” said Eamon Gilmore. But this is crude maths, and implies that to create jobs you simply have to spend the money. And if that doesn’t work, spend more. Never mind the economic climate and the strictures from Europe not to spend our way out of the recession.

“The €22bn would build the Metro,” continued Gilmore, “as well as the 400 schools that are in the Department of Education’s list. It would build the hospitals and there would be money left over to do a lot more than that.”

The €22bn is a tragedy, but it is a bank bail-out. The money wasn’t destined for schools or hospitals. The problem in the health service is efficiency and competence, not necessarily a lack of funds — a point the Taoiseach tried to clarify, albeit in such a somnolent way as to make the listener almost fall asleep. “The first fact relating to your question is the fact that, of course, recapitalisation of banks, including the provision of monies to that bank, has arisen because there are inadequate shareholder funds to take the losses in those banks,” Cowen said.

Full piece: