June 30, 2013 / 10:50 AM / 6 years ago

Irish banker apologizes for taped comments

DUBLIN (Reuters) - An Irish banker taped saying he would demand cash from authorities to keep operating and making light of a 2008 bailout, prompting criticism around Europe, apologized for his comments in an interview published on Sunday.

Pedestrians are seen walking past a branch of the Anglo Irish Bank in Dublin in this September 30, 2010 file photograph. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton/Files

Public outrage has grown after the Irish Independent published taped telephone conversations between executives of the now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank, wrecked in 2008 when a property bubble burst after years of reckless lending.

David Drumm, then-chief executive of Anglo Irish, had said he would demand “moolah” - slang for money - from the central bank in tapes of conversations that mocked a bank guarantee that pushed Ireland into years of austerity.

In his first public comments since the tapes were published, Drumm told the Sunday Business Post that the recordings were made at a stressful and volatile time but there was “no excuse for the terrible language or the frivolous tone”.

“I sincerely regret the offence this has caused,” the Sunday Business Post quoted Drumm as saying. “I cannot change this now, but I can apologize to those who had to listen to it and who were understandably so offended by it.”

Reuters has not been able to contact Drumm, who now lives in Boston.

The bank eventually cost taxpayers some 30 billion euros during the financial crisis, almost one-fifth of the country’s annual output, and three former executives - not including Drumm - will go on trial next year on fraud charges.

The tapes have caused offence in the European Union, which helped to pay for Ireland’s bailout, and Irish premier Enda Kenny said they were a “thunderbolt” that showed contempt, arrogance and insolence.

One executive, John Bowe, was taped singing a pre-war verse of the German national anthem during a conversation with Drumm as they discussed money flowing in from Germany after the governments guaranteed the banks. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the recordings were “impossible to stomach”.

But Ireland has still not held a full public inquiry into its rescue of the banks, which eventually pushed the country into an 85 billion euro bailout from the International Monetary Fund and EU that meant steep salary cuts and tax rises.

Drumm said the public were only being offered selected excerpts of banking conversations and they told a one-sided story. He wanted taped calls between his bank, the regulator, central bank and finance ministry also to be published to provide more context.

“I believe that the Irish public will see a very different picture when the full story is told, having been denied a full account of the circumstances for so long,” he said.

Reporting by Sam Cage, editing by Gareth Jones

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