An Education



 Ethna Tinney, a former director at EBS Building Society, this morning

“I could not get the image out of my head of a shark eating its own entrails. As time went by I became ever more doubtful of the fundamental banking concept of loans as assets, and indeed of debts in any business as assets. The only asset that reassures me is something I can control and I cannot control the repayment of debt owed to me.

“The bonus system in banks is crazy. You get a bonus for lending money out. There is no incentive to get it back in. Such a system encourages greed and recklessness. It is no wonder that banks go bust from time to time.”

“Probably until the last syllable of recorded time this will be argued by politicians, economists and journalists. My personal view as a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, perhaps to some extent influenced by hindsight, is that it was indefensible for the government in September 2008 to in effect yield the sovereignty of this country in order to shore up a banking system that is entirely of and for itself and will never change. I do accept, however, that many grave problems would have arisen if one or more banks had failed and that the full extent of the bad debts were not known at the time”

“I have never had a relationship with any member of the Government, nor the Oireachtas , nor the property sector . I do not golf, do not visit tents at racecourses and am not invited to dinners. But my sense, as a citizen of Ireland and as a director of EBS for nine years, is that there is a deeply unhealthy relationship between all four.”

A portion of former EBS Building Society Director Ethna Tinney’s opening address to the Banking Inquiry today. Ms Tinney’s appointment was part of an experiment by EBS to allow ‘real people’ on to its board. That’ll learn them.

More as Ethna gives it we get it.

(Sam Boal/Photocall/Ireland)

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26 thoughts on “An Education

  1. Mr. T.

    “It is no wonder that banks go bust from time to time.”

    They didn’t. The IMF loaned money to our Government to bail out the banks. The citizens are paying that money back with interest.

    The banks lost nothing.

    1. classter

      You’re being pedantic. She is saying the same thing you are.

      Her point is that this lack of moral hazard provides little incentive for prudent management of banking.

  2. bisted

    …fairplay Eithne…she was asking the hard questions at EBS long before other commentators started to raise issues. She was a thorn in their side and while they tried had to get rid of her, they consistently under-estimated her…big mistake.

    1. ahyeah

      +1 to that.

      And putting it together with the contributions of Daly, Murphy and others, there are grounds for greater involvement of women in positions of influence – particularly when it comes to calling out wrongs perpetrated through the gang mentality that men are drawn into (unfortunately).

      1. ahjayzis


        I much, much, muuuuch prefer projects where there’s a decent level of gender balance. They just seem to run better, less is missed and there’s more of a consensus atmosphere / everyone’s inclined to help each other out more. Tasks get silo’d when it’s all men.

        I’ve chosen between job offers before based on whether the partner involved was to be a woman or a man, sexist maybe but I’ll take a lady in charge over another fella any day!

        1. ahyeah

          Unless we’re talking about real, full-on domination. Then you’d prefer it to be a man, right?


      will this reignite the revolutionary in you, straight from an insider/horse’s mouth, they are all complicit

  3. phil

    There is an elephant in the room re the bailout IMO, people with banking deposits over 130k were very happy to load the debts of the banks onto the Irish citizens shoulders. I never hear it discussed much , but it does annoy me when supporters of the bailout (who likely had deposits of that size) try to paint a picture that there was no protection of any kind for bank deposits, a view thats never challenged by the meja…

  4. Ferret McGruber

    Now that we’ve bailed out the banks, and now that they’re returning to profit, is there any chance they might pay their fair share of tax? Is there any chance the Revenue Commissioners and the government will insure that they pay their fair share by closing all the loopholes that they use to avoid paying tax? No. Thought not.

    But fair play to you Eithne. It takes a woman.

        1. Atticus

          But that’s the thing though, how is that a fair system? There is absolutely no consequences for banks f’ing up. Whatever happens they get paid.

          1. scottser

            there should be loads and loads of small independent banks.
            there should be just one, massive, state-owned bank.

          2. ahyeah

            Actually both. One massive state-owned institution, alongside a network of smaller ones – more or less the credit union network with license to offer full banking services. Government should have combined AIB and BOI when it had the chance.

          3. classter

            What is the merit of one large state-owned bank?
            Or of smaller credit-unions?

            Would several medium-sized private-sector institutions and a decent regulator not be preferable?

            Genuine question.

  5. Kieran NYC

    It’s refreshing to hear someone talk to that committee without all the waffle and bluster.

  6. Miko

    The problem being that she is taking issue with a fundamental concept of capitalism. Loans are assets. In her world a car is an asset even though it depreciates to zero in a short space of time. All the alternatives tried have actually eaten themselves (communism, corporatism etc). It’s tiresome hearing people living off the fat of a society which is as wealthy as it is because of the capitalist system with a functioning banking system. I suggest she and all the other posters who think she talks sense to travel to the alternatives and report back…

    1. bisted

      ‘…The problem being that she is taking issue with a fundamental concept of capitalism. Loans are assets’.
      – you’re almost there Miko…just apply a little irony and you’ll have it.

    2. ivan

      but a car DOESN’T depreciate to zero in the real world. I know that it loses value as soon as it’s driven out of the showroom. I know that it’s worth less a year later, regardless of how much it’s driven, but does it really hit a value of zero, if it’s got an intrinsic value? If my car is 15 years old, and still runs well, then it might well have a ‘book’ value of zero, but seeing as a replacement will cost me X thousand, and keeping it won’t, then regardless of book value, it still has a value because it saves me from buying a replacement.

      And as for loans being assets? Loans are ONLY assets if you know for a fact that they’ll be paid back in full. If you don’t know, with any degree of certainty, that they can be paid back, then calling them an asset is (to this mind) an idiocy. It’s the one concept/notion that flies completely in the face of the accepted thing of accountants being ‘prudent’ or ‘conservative’; when it comes to loans they think ‘fuppit, it’s an asset…’

      “reporting the alternatives” is beside the point.

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