History Lesson Part 1: The telex machine in the Evening Press newsroom clickety-clacks into life on 28 January 1983. Out of it spews a terse statement from Allied Irish Bank, responding to a report in the newspaper that the leader of the opposition, Charles J Haughey, owes the bank about IR£1m. The story was "so outlandishly inaccurate", spits the missive, "that AIB feels bound as a special matter to say so positively and authoritatively". The bank's denial is published in full in the following day's Evening Press. End of story. For the time being...
History Lesson Part 2: Fourteen years later, the Department of the Taoiseach issues a statement welcoming the report of the McCracken Tribunal on payments to Haughey. One of the High Court judge's findings is that AIB wrote off IR£393,000 of an IR£1m-plus loan in 1980 to the former Fianna Fáil leader. McCracken denounces AIB's 1983 denial to the Evening Press as "disingenuous in the extreme". Turns out the five-time Taoiseach, whose bagman was Cement Roadstone chairman and banker Des Traynor, once offered his exceedingly patient bank the carrot of a IR£10m deposit from an Iraqi bank, controlled by a certain Mr Saddam Hussein. The statement issued by Haughey's "most cunning of them all" successor, Bertie Ahern, goes: "I would like to congratulate Mr Justice McCracken and his tribunal on their excellent work" blah, blah, blah. "Our duty is to guard our country and our democratic system from any taint of suspicion or corruption."
History Lesson Part 3: The Planning Tribunal is in full swing after Bertie Ahern went up every tree in north Dublin looking for cabinet colleague Ray Burke's brown envelopes. Up in Dublin Castle, it's coming out that AIB took a 20% interest in Barkhill, a company involved in developing the Quarryvale site in west Dublin. An internal bank memo dated 1991 has noted it would be "high risk" not to pay fees of IR£30,000 to Frank Dunlop, former government and Fianna Fáil press secretary and disburser-in-chief of political bribes, because a rezoning decision on the site loomed. (Dunlop is currently awaiting sentencing having pleaded guilty to corruption charges).
History Lesson Part 4: In the Upper Yard at Dublin Castle, the Moriarty Tribunal into payments to politicians is hearing about the munificence of the late Patrick Gallagher to Haughey. At the tender age of 27, the heir to the Gallagher property and banking group gifted the avaricious politician with IR£1m. After the Gallagher empire collapsed, young Patrick was imprisoned in Belfast's Crumlin road jail in September 1990 for fraud arising from his dealings on behalf of the Northern Ireland arm of his Merchant Banking Ltd. In the Republic, the liquidator's report was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions... and never heard of again. It also emerged that Irish Permanent contributed to a fund run by Haughey ostensibly for his friend, the late Brian Lenihan, who underwent a liver transplant in the US.
History Lesson Part 5: It is the late 1990s and the most popular day-time show on RTÉ television is an Oireachtas committee inquiry into a massive country-wide Dirt tax fraud facilitated by the banks. Pinstriped banker after pinstriped banker files into the public accounts committee – newly empowered to compel witnesses to testify before it – with an 'I-knew-nuttin' defence. On foot of the inquiry, Revenue collects oceans of dosh for the State's coffers, including €90m from AIB, the biggest in history. Coincidentally, the same bank paid exactly that sum for the acquisition of its white elephant, the Insurance Corporatation of Ireland, which once threatened AIB's very survival, until the State kindly proffered Joe Public's hand to rescue it. In its report of the Dirt inquiry, the committee concludes: "There was a particularly close relationship between banking and the State and top agencies." Not one banker resigns. Not one banker is sacked. Not one banker faces criminal charges. None of them says as much as "oops!"
History Lesson Part 6: It's May 2000 and the government has nominated Judge Hugh O'Flaherty as the IR£120,000-a-year vice-president of the European Investment Bank. Just one problem – O'Flaherty has resigned from the Supreme Court in a storm of controversy after it was revealed that he interfered in a fatal hit-and-run case, culminating in the early release of a convicted drunk-driver. Fresh from a rousing ard fheis speech promising to purge his party of Haughey's sins, nobody seems to detect a correlation between Bertie Ahern's genetic ambivalence on corporate integrity and the mooted appointment of O'Flaherty to a prestigious banking position.
History Lesson Part 7: Fast-forward to June 2004 when the lid is blown on a secret British Virgin Islands-registered investment fund being operated for the enrichment of four senior AIB executives. Faldor Limited, a name reputedly inspired by its golf-enthusiast creator's admiration for Nick Faldo, has been bulking up tax-dodge bucks for the boys since 1989. The bank's former chief executive and deputy chairman, Gerry Scanlan, says he knew nothing about Faldor and that the money held for him in the fund, €144,750, was in his wife's name. Another of the four, Roy Douglas, by this time the chairman of Irish Life & Permanent, says he went to work for AIB in London in 1989 and was invited by the bank to join an investment fund. He appeared to view it as a perk of the job, an attitude likened by Pat Rabbitte to "being offered the key of the executive loo".
History Lesson Part 8: We arrive in the summer of 2007. Bertie Ahern is on his third consecutive term as taoiseach when he announces Fianna Fáil's imminent re-embrace of TD-with-attitude Beverley Flynn. The Mayo woman was reluctantly dumped by her political soulmates after losing a Supreme Court defamation case against RTÉ for revealing that she helped customers defraud the state while she worked for National Irish Bank. In June 2007, immediately after the general election, she finally pays RTÉ €1.2m of the €2.84m legal costs awarded against her. In the immortal words of Judge Peter Kelly, commenting on a different matter in the commercial court last week: "That's a surprise, the taxpayer pays again!" Ahern equivocates on boardroom ethics once more in 2007 when it emerges that corporate enforcer Paul Appleby had applied for 20 extra staff two years earlier and was still awaiting a reply. "He'll have to wait his turn," was the Taoiseach's tart response when challenged in the Dáil, despite warnings that "a substantial number of investigations into corporate wrong-doing (would) not be pursued due to inadequate resources". (At the time, Appleby was investigating Mick and Tom Bailey, the Fianna Fáil-smitten builders accused by Judge Feargus Flood of trying to jettison his tribunal in Dublin Castle.
History Lesson Part 9: A wad of bankers parades into Leinster House in July 2008, just weeks before the government hatches a €460bn bank guarantee scheme to rescue Anglo Irish Bank from extinction. They tell members of the Oireachtas all the fundamentals in the garden are rosy but nasty people are spreading "negative sentiment". The main spokesman for the suits is Pat Farrell, chief executive of the Irish Bankers Federation who was Fianna Fáil 's secretary general from 1991 to 1997, was appointed to the Seanad by Albert Reynolds in 1992, and took leave of absence from his day job to steer Fianna Fáil 's campaign in the 2002 general election. Farrell tells his captive audience of TDs and senators: "On the question of the (Financial) Regulator, the industry is heavily regulated and we are not always in agreement with it."
History Lesson Part 10: We are limping to the present now. It's November 2008 and Seánie FitzPatrick, Irish banking wunderkind, is spotted dropping into Government Buildings with the easy familiarity of a man going in his own back door. For the best part of a decade, he has been engaging in "creative accounting" by hiding €129m in loans to himself from shareholders and investors in his bank, Anglo Irish. He is chairman of a board which includes among its directors the chief executive of Smurfit Kappa, where Seánie also sits on the board, and the chairman of Greencore, where – you've guessed it – Seánie also sits on the board. In December, Anglo's David Drumm said that, "as a banking force, Anglo is greater than ever". On 19 December, Seánie resigns as chairman after the Minister for Finance tips off the regulator about the "creative accounting" worth €129m in concealed loans.
Abroad, the words "Irish" and "Bank" are being prefixed by the words "wild" and "west".