A Curious Scoop


The ECB letter brouhaha.

A timeline:

April 4, 2011: In an interview with Economics Editor of the Irish Times Dan O’Brien, the late former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said he received a letter from Jean-Claude Trichet on November 12, 2010 outlining how the ECB wanted Ireland to accept a bailout. Lenihan told O’Brien Ireland was “bounced” into the EU/IMF deal.

April, 2011: TheJournal.ie made an FOI request for copies of corresondence between Lenihan and the ECB/European Commission, IMF and Her Majesty’s Treasury in November 2010.

June, 2011: TheJournal.ie received a response from the ECB. The response includes a schedule of documents between the parties and whether they could be released or not. These included:
Letter from Trichet to Lenihan on November 2, 2010, already released.
Lenihan to Trichet on November 4, 2010, release refused.
Lenihan to Ollie Rehn on November 4, 2010, release refused.
Trichet to Lenihan on November 12, 2010, release refused.
ECB President to Lenihan on November 19, release refused.
Lenihan to ECB President on November 21, release refused.
Lenihan to Rehn, on November 21, release refused.
Lenihan to Rehn, on November 30, release refused.

December, 2011: Gavin Sheridan of TheStory.ie asked the ECB to release copies of all the letters sent by the ECB to Lenihan during November 2010.

In its response, the ECB said there were two letters, dated November 18 and 19, sent from Trichet to Lenihan.
The ECB released the first letter which was sent on the same day Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan confirmed on RTE Radio One that Ireland was getting a loan from the EU/IMF – despite claims just days before by then Fianna Fail ministers Noel Dempsey and Dermot Ahern that this wasn’t the case.  It said releasing the letter of November 19 would “undermine the protection of the public interest”.

August 17, 2012: Economist Karl Whelan blogged about the matter on Forbes.com. He posed several questions in relation to the crucial November 12 letter:“Did the ECB communicate with Brian Lenihan on November 12, 2010? If so, why was this letter not referred to in response to Mr. Sheridan’s request?”“Did the ECB threaten to withdraw funding from Irish banks unless Ireland entered an EU-IMF program, either in a letter dated November 12 or in meetings the following weekend?“What are the contents of the November 19 letter and why is this letter considered so sensitive given that it was clear to all after Governor Honohan’s remarks on November 18 that a bailout deal was being concluded?

Today (September 1, 2012):
Stephen Collins of the Irish Times writes (top) that he has seen three letters sent by Trichet to Lenihan in November 2010. Collins asserts that the letters are from October 15, November 4 and November 19. He also claimed an email or fax “reinforcing the message” was sent to Lenihan on November 12 – prompting a phone call between the pair on the same day.The article states: “The Department of Finance made reference to the letters in response to a freedom of information request by The Irish Times.”

But TheJournal.ie has posted a story this morning, stating: “The Department of Finance has said there are no plans to release the letters that European Central Bank sent to former finance minister Brian Lenihan in the build-up to Ireland applying for a bailout in 2010.”

It adds: “A spokesman for the Department of Finance said today that the Department did not release the documents to the paper nor was he aware of any leak either from the Department or its Freedom of Information Unit.
The spokesperson said that the documents released to the Irish Times in response to an FOI request were the same that were released to other media organisations including TheJournal.ie.”



Previously: ECB’s Secret Letter To ireland