Irish journalist nails ECB bureaucrat on their bailout

One reason that politicians and other officials can avoid addressing hard questions at press conferences is because each journalist is usually given the chance to ask just one question. The politician can answer evasively or dismissively and the microphone then passes to the next questioner who usually asks a different question and does not follow up on the non-answer to the previous one.

But via BoingBoing, I came across this press conference in Ireland where journalist Vincent Browne refuses to give up the microphone and doggedly demands that a bureaucrat from the European Central Bank answer why the Irish people should bail out European banks that gave out unsecured loans that went bad. In other words, the Irish public became the unwitting and unwilling insurers of private banks and ended up reimbursing them for the losses they incurred because of their own recklessness.

The moderator tries the usual tricks to try and move on so that the ECB bureaucrat is not embarrassed but Browne appeals to Irish journalistic traditions that say that he has the right to ask follow up questions and refuses to yield the floor, thus clearly showing how the speaker was evading the issue.

I don’t know if Browne was making up that stuff about Irish journalistic traditions as a way to stymie the moderator but if it is not already a tradition, it should become one. Why doesn’t our press corps follow the Irish example?


  1. Scotlyn says

    Our Vincent Browne is one of a kind – not the most fluid of speakers, but a bulldog in persistence!

    Another Irish politician (Leo Varadkar) said the next day that the ECB had put it to our government that if we did not pay the gamblers who are now banking on their zombie dead bank bonds (zombie dead bank being the bank formerly known as the Anglo Irish Bank) being paid up in full (€1.2 billion by next week) by “enserfing” the Irish public, a “financial bomb” would go off, not in Frankfurt, but in Dublin! We are now at the mercy of financial terrorists.

    Ref the “Irish journalistic” traditions he is referring to, of course he was being a bit optimistic. He has always been kept on the margins of Irish mainstream journalism because he actually does his job!

  2. Brownian says

    Why doesn’t our press corps follow the Irish example?

    And now, for balance, we’ll hear from someone who argues that yes, our press corps does follow the Irish example.

  3. Mudpuddles says

    As an Irish citizen, the whole thing makes my blood boil… and yet apart from a small number like Mr Browne, no one in Ireland cares enough to raise their voices.

    Some years ago, I remember that Manchester United football club was purchased by the Glazer brothers (a pair of US tycoons, I believe) and the diehard fans were very, very unhappy. I remember watching TV3 news (TV3 is Vincent Browne’s home station) and hearing that more than 1000 Irish Man. U. supporters were estimated to have travelled to Manchester to join the protests. And yet here at home, we haven’t seen a dozen protesting the nonsense that Mr Browne has challenged in that clip.

    Ireland is well and truly sunk. Disability suppport, home carer’s aid, primary health care services and education for disadvantaged and special needs children are all on the chopping block so that reckless fools can be reimbursed after gambling away their pants. And that seems just fine.

  4. plutosdad says

    I suppose because he’ll be removed from whatever position and not allowed to ask tough questions of politicians above a certain level. And the same thing would happen here to anyone else. I guess this is a form of what they call “regulatory capture”. The Press, who’s supposed to keep an eye on government, cannot keep too close of an eye or else they lose their access.

  5. Alecthar says


    Maybe I’m not understanding correctly, but why should this “financial bomb” not go off in Dublin? Bank Bonds are a promise by that bank to repay the purchasers of those bonds. Purchasing such a bond isn’t supposed to be “gambling,” it’s not like buying stock, where you are at the mercy of the market.

    In all seriousness, it seems like you’re saying “How dare those Germans, with their functioning economy and vested interest in the health of the Eurozone, demand that we pay the debts we assumed when we nationalized the Irish Anglo Bank!”

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Brownian @ # 2: And now, for balance, we’ll hear from someone who argues that yes, our press corps does follow the Irish example.

    *ahem* Thank you for that sterling introduction, Mr. B.

    The great majority of American reporters whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing have a strong and confident approach to a mug of beer, and most are fluent with a wide variety of other sorts of vessels containing divers other beverages as well. Not one feels the slightest compunction about celebrating St. Patrick on his especial Day, nor on the 182 days preceding and following that date.

    Back to you, B!

  7. Shawn Smith says

    Why? Because if they ask actual questions and try to hold a politician’s feet to the fire, they’ll be classified as “assholes” and won’t get invited to all the great parties with all the other cool kids. And if they want to have any access to government sources, and even be able to get into the press room, then they need to get with the program and not rock the boat. And who wants to actually do the amount of work it would take (like calling a lot of people) to get real stories that other people want to read? Stephen Colbert really wasn’t joking when he hosted that press club dinner all those years ago.

  8. Mudpuddles says

    Alecthar (#5) I think your missing the gist of it a little.

    Anglo Irish Bank was one of the major financial institutions which bankrolled the Irish property bubble, giving multi-million euro loans to construction projects which would never (and in many cases, could never) succeed, and the bank did so without appropriate internal oversight or due diligence. Many of the loans were also ridiculously risky (e.g. 100% loan-for-value deals, under which any drop in the value of the asset would mean the bank loses money.) There was also a panoply of other unwise investments including possibly illegal loans to Anglo’s own directors. So Anglo’s directors breached a raft of regulatory standards and appear to have commited criminal acts (including alleged corporate fraud and misuse of funds – police investigations are ongoing since 2009). So when the recession hit, the bank went down the toilet and took a large part of Ireland with it.

    The Irish government at the time decided to bankroll Anglo’s debts with what was effectively a blank cheque. Estimates of 2 billion soon became €5 billion, 8, 10, and eventually €30+ billion. Ireland could not afford this costly bailout, part of a much larger national debt burden. When getting the financial support from the European Central Bank and IMF to keep the country afloat, support for the Anglo guarantee was included. But Anglo is now defunct – it does not exist. Instead there is a new company acting as a commission of sorts to work out ongoing financial and legal affairs including the debts which Anglo has / had to bondholders, many of whom were unsecured; i.e. the bank borrowed money from bondolders who did not insist on having those loans guaranteed by the bank – and the bank offered no guarantee. (So, gross recklessness by the bank to take on additional loans to facilitate its own gambling on unwise financial decisions, and by the bondholders to not do their own due diligence and make sure the bank was operating according to national law or best practice and also was good for the loan repayment).

    So the bailout by the Irish government for Anglo is now largely a bailout for Anglo bondholders. The ECB-IMF support for the bondholder bailout comes with a massive interest bill of €18 billion (which is wee bit high for a €30 billion loan). Anglo is now no longer a bank but a blackhole; none of the money being pumped into it now will ever yield a return or assist the Irish people, or ever resurface.

    I think its worth noting that Vincent Browne’s tirade against the ECB-IMF in the clip (“you people”) is somewhat unjustified. They were invited in by the Irish government to stop us becoming a basket case, and provided a bailout when it was requested. The mess we are in is not their fault, though there are legitimate issues over the interest rate, and the ECB-IMF have also so far not been willing to allow Ireland to burn some of the unsecured bondholders (or even just give them a “haircut”) because they include certain other EU financial institutions.

    So there. Clear as mud.

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