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BBC business journalist Joe Lynam

Further to this morning’s publication of the letter from ECB president, Jean-Claude Trichet, to former finance minister Brian Lenihan, on November 19, 2010, BBC journalist Joe Lynam spoke to Richard Crowley on RTÉ’s News At One earlier.

On Saturday, November 13, 2010, Joe Lynam, of BBC, broke the story about how Ireland was going to enter an EU/IMF bailout programme because of the country’s property collapse.

This  was five days before Central Bank governor, Patrick Honohan, went on Morning Ireland to announce the same.

Joe Lynam: “The story that I broke, on November 13, on the BBC was that Ireland was in negotiations with the European Union and the ECB with the view to take a bailout and that, at some stage, those talks would reach fruition in Ireland and would indeed take a bailout. The language that I used was ‘it’s not a question of whether, but when.'”

Richard Crowley: “And presumably, from that, from good sources?”

Lynam: “Yeah. My sources were very senior. Needless to say, I won’t be revealing who they are but they were very, very senior in the European body politic.”

Crowley: “And what reaction did you get from Dublin?”

Lynam: “Needless to say, they weren’t happy. They flatly denied the story. On the evening of that I broke that story, on the Saturday evening, RTÉ was saying, quoting officers of the State saying it simply wasn’t true. On the Sunday, the Sunday Independent immediately, they led with Brian Cowen, the then Taoiseach, distancing himself, to say the least, from the story, saying it wasn’t accurate. And then we had a slew of ministers, junior and senior, disowning the story, simply saying it wasn’t true. Some said it was shoddy journalism. And yeah there was quite a bit of reaction from the then Government to the story. And then on the Tuesday, immediately after I broke the story, I think it was the 16th, I got a call from a senior officer of the Irish state, asking me, or demanding, that I retract my story, simply because it wasn’t true. And, that if I wanted to rescue my reputation, I’d need to retract the story pretty quickly.”

Crowley: “Who was that?”

Lynam: “I can’t say. A senior officer of the State, suffice to say that this person was empowered at the very, very highest level.”

Crowley: “And they were clearly denying this, even know something was in train at that point?”

Lynam: “Yeah it was a very nerve-wracking time for a journalist when you have impeccable sources on a story which you know to be accurate. But when a democratically elected government decides to go against you, it’s very tough, and I would like to thank my editors, in the BBC, for supporting me, all the way through that. Because some editors might buckle when a major government decides to question the veracity of your own story.”

Crowley: “And did they elaborate on that threat to your career?”

Lynam: “No. That was, it was just the one phonecall and I said unfortunately, I cannot retract a true story.”

Listen back here

Pic: Joe Lynam