Central Bank of Ireland

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Not to be confused with Bank of Ireland.
Central Bank of Ireland
Banc Ceannais na hÉireann (Irish)
Headquarters Dame Street, Dublin, Ireland
Established 1943
Governor Philip R. Lane
Central bank of Ireland
Preceded by Currency Commission (currency control)
Bank of Ireland (Government's banker)1
Succeeded by European Central Bank (1999)2
Website www.centralbank.ie
1 Even after establishment of the Central Bank, Bank of Ireland remained the government's banker for many years.
2 The Central Bank of Ireland still exists but many of its central bank functions have been taken over by the ECB.

The Central Bank of Ireland (Irish: Banc Ceannais na hÉireann) is Ireland's central bank, and as such part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). It is also the country's financial services regulator for most categories of financial firms. It was the issuer of Irish pound banknotes and coinage until the introduction of the euro currency, and now provides this service for the European Central Bank.

The Central Bank was founded in 1943 and since 1 January 1972 has been the banker of the Government of Ireland in accordance with the Central Bank Act 1971,[1] which can be seen in legislative terms as completing the long transition from a currency board to a fully functional central bank.[2]

Its head office is located on Dame Street, Dublin, where the public may exchange non-current Irish coinage and currency (both pre- and post-decimalization) for euros.[3] It also operates from premises in Spencer Dock, Iveagh Court and College Green. The Currency Centre at Sandyford is the currency manufacture, warehouse and distribution site of the bank.

In late 2016 its city centre staff will move to a new building at North Wall Quay.[4]

Functions and objectives[edit]

The Central Bank of Ireland’s mandate calls on it to contribute to the well being of the people of Ireland and more widely in Europe by performing statutory responsibilities which cover a wide range, including :

  • price stability;
  • financial stability;
  • consumer protection;
  • supervision and enforcement;
  • regulatory policy development;
  • payment, settlement and currency systems operations and oversight;
  • the provision of economic advice and financial statistics; and
  • the recovery and resolution of distressed financial services firms.[5]


From Currency Commission to Central Bank (1920-1942)[edit]

On the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922, the new state's trade was overwhelmingly with the United Kingdom (98% of Irish exports and 80% of imports in 1924[citation needed]), so the introduction of an independent currency was a low priority. British banknotes (British Treasury notes, Bank of England notes), and notes issued by Irish banks circulated (but only the first were legal tender) and coins remained in circulation.

Under the terms of the Coinage Act 1926, the Finance Minister was authorised to issue coins of silver, nickel, and bronze of the same denominations as the British coins already in circulation – however the Irish silver coins were to contain 75% silver as compared to the 50% silver coins issued by Britain at the time. These coins entered circulation on 12 December 1928.

Under the terms of the Currency Act 1927, a new unit of currency, the Saorstát Pound (Free State Pound) was created, which was to be maintained at parity with the British Pound Sterling by a Currency Commission which would keep British government securities, sterling cash, and gold to keep a 1–1 relationship.

Foundation of the Central Bank to decimalization (1942 -1971)[edit]

The Central Bank Act 1942 which came into effect on 1 February 1943 renamed the Currency Commission the Central Bank of Ireland, although the organisation did not at that time acquire many of the characteristics of a central bank:

  • it was not given custody of the cash reserves of the commercial banks
  • it had no statutory power to restrict credit, though it could promote it
  • the Bank of Ireland remained the government's banker
  • the conditions for influencing credit through open-market operations did not yet exist
  • Ireland's external monetary reserves were largely held as external assets of the commercial banks

The mid-1960s saw the Bank take over the normal day-to-day operations of exchange control from the Department of Finance. The Central Bank broadened its activities over the decades, but it remained in effect a currency board until the 1970s. Economist Patrick Honohan evaluates the success of the movement from currency board to central bank as follows: 'in contrast to many other post-colonial cases, (the currency board's) demise was not followed by a rapid depreciation and slide into semi-permanent high inflation and lack of convertibility.[6]

Such was the proliferation of small industrial banks and hire purchase firms in the late 1960s, the 1971 Central Bank Act introduced significantly enhanced authorisation and supervision standards. In the inevitable consolidation in the marketplace, in 1976 a liquidator was appointed to Irish Trust Bank Ltd after Central Bank investigations and in 1982 Merchant Banking Ltd also collapsed.

Decimalization to European integration (1971-1978)[edit]

The 1970s was a decade of change, which began with the decimalisation of the currency which came into effect on 15 February 1971, when the decimal coinage was released into circulation (although 5p, 10p, and 50p coins were released a few years earlier, as they had exact equivalents in old currency units). Decimalisation would have provided an ideal opportunity to break the link with Sterling, but there was not much demand for this at that time. In 1972 however, the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates broke down, and in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis inflation in Britain increased dramatically, and economic theory would suggest that a smaller economy whose currency is pegged to a larger one will suffer the larger economy's inflation rate. At the same time moves to create a money market in Dublin and the transfer in 1968 of the commercial banks' sterling assets to the Central Bank made it possible to contemplate a break in the link. In the mid to late 1970s, opinion within the bank was moving toward breaking the link with sterling and devaluing the Irish currency in order to limit inflationary effects from abroad.

The European Monetary System and movement toward a single currency[edit]

At this time, however, an alternative option became available. In April 1978, the European Council meeting in Copenhagen decided to create a "zone of monetary stability" in Europe, and European Economic Community institutions were invited to consider how to create such a zone. At the following Council meeting in Bremen, Germany in June 1978 the basic features of the European Monetary System were outlined, including the creation of the ECU – European Currency Unit, a basket of the Community's currencies used to determine exchange rates, and the forerunner of the euro.

The Irish government had to decide whether or not to participate in the EMS. If the EMS had included all the European Community's currencies, it would have provided stability for 75% of Ireland's external trade, but in the event Britain, which still accounted for 50% of Ireland's external trade, decided to stay out of the EMS. Despite this, on 15 December 1978 it was announced that Ireland would participate in the EMS. Countries were given the option of either a 2.25% or 6% margin of fluctuation within the EMS' Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), and Ireland took the narrower margin. The EMS started on 13 March 1979, and towards the end of the month Sterling started to gain in value against the EMS currencies because of rising oil prices, and by 30 March Sterling breached the upper fluctuation band limit of the Belgian franc and the Irish currency could no longer track Sterling. After over 50 years, the parity of the Irish and British currencies was broken, and the Irish currency became known as the Irish pound (or Punt).

The initial experience of the EMS was disappointing. It had been expected that the Irish Pound would appreciate in value against Sterling, and hence reduce inflation in Ireland, but in practice Sterling appreciated considerably in value thanks to its status as a petrocurrency and to the tight monetary policies of the new British government of Margaret Thatcher. By late 1980 the Irish Pound had fallen in value to less than 80 British pence, and Irish inflation was higher than British. Economic policy in Ireland was inconsistent with a "hard currency" policy, and the Irish Pound also failed to hold its value against the central rate of the Deutschmark, although it did appreciate in value against some of the other EMS currencies.

Eventually the EMS settled down (notwithstanding a crisis in 1992 when the Irish Pound was devalued by 10%), and Irish inflation was consistently the same or lower than Britain's inflation rate from 1987 onwards.

Towards the Euro[edit]

The idea of a single European currency goes back to the Schumann Plan of 1950. The first blueprint for how to go about implementing the currency, the Werner Report of 1970 was not proceeded with, but the ultimate aim was always kept in mind. The Delors Report endorsed by the Madrid Summit of June 1989 envisaged a three-stage process to monetary union, and this was given legal authority by the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 (enacted into Irish law as the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of Ireland by 70% of those voting in a referendum on 18 June 1992). This envisaged the start of monetary union on 1 January 1999 and the introduction of notes and coins on 1 January 2002.

The Central Bank began production of euro coins in September 1999, producing over a billion coins, weighing about 5,000 tons, with a value of €230 million before the introduction into circulation of the euro coins in January 2002. Production of euro banknotes began in June 2000, with 300 million notes worth €4 billion being produced in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 euros. Euro banknotes produced for the Central Bank are identified by having the serial number begin with the letter T. The Bank did not initially issue €200 or €500 notes, but has since begun to do so.[7]

Domestic banking crisis[edit]

The Central Bank admitted in November 2005 that estimates of overvaluation of 40% to 60% in the Irish residential property market existed. Minutes of a meeting with the OECD indicated that while the Central Bank agreed that Irish property was overvalued it was fearful of precipitating a crash by "putting a number on it". Senior Allied Irish Bank officials expressed concerns in 2006 that Central Bank stress tests were "not stressful enough" — two years before the collapse of the Irish banking system.[8] The management continually ignored warnings from its own financial stability unit, according to one former staff member, whose evidence to the parliamentary inquiry was questioned by a number of other staff members,[9] and from the Economic and Social Research Institute about the dangerous scale of bank loans to property speculators and developers[10] leading to key information being suppressed. It was reported that it sought to gag one of the country’s most prominent economists from talking about the fragile state of the nation’s banks in relation the Irish branch of Northern Rock. .[11] The Central Bank deliberately "watered down" economic warnings about the property bubble in the run-up to the crash, blocked internal communication reaching board level due to the political and property interests of the Directors and "rigorously" concealed data from the relevant supervisors on the large exposures of the banks to individual developers.[12][13]

10 months before the crash they made a statement saying- "The Irish banking system continues to be well-placed to withstand adverse economic and sectoral developments in the short to medium term. The underlying fundamentals of the residential market continue to appear strong and the current trend in monthly price developments does not imply a sharp correction. The central scenario therefore is for a soft landing"[14]

After the bubble burst, Irish banks faced mounting losses which exposed them to a collapse of confidence following the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September 2008; they then suffered acute liquidity pressures which had to be met by Central Bank support, including emergency lending. Management abuses, were also revealed at Anglo Irish Bank, which had to be nationalised in January 2009.

Their Annual Report, which was published just three months before the Government was forced to unconditionally guarantee the deposits of the Irish-owned banks,said: "The banks have negligible exposure to the sub-prime sector and they remain relatively healthy by the standard measures of capital, profitability and asset quality. This has been confirmed by the stress testing exercises we have carried out with the banks".[15][16]

The next Annual Report had virtually nothing to say about how and why the Irish banking system collapsed.[17] Although there were four Central Bank directors on the board of the Financial Regulator, the Central Bank maintained it had no powers to intervene in the market. Yet, the Central Bank had the power to issue directives to the Financial Regulator if it thought it was conducting its business in a way that was contrary to overall Central Bank policy aims. None were issued.[18][19]

In July 2009, a senior Central Bank official told the Oireachtas Enterprise Committee that shareholders (later corrected/clarified to refer to institutional investors) who lost their money in the banking collapse were to blame for their fate and got what was coming to them for not keeping bank chiefs in check. The official did admit that the Central Bank had failed to give sufficient warning about reckless lending to property developers.[20] The Governor later described the share wipeout in which tens of thousands of investors lost their lives’ savings as a "stock exchange adjustment".[21]

A report by the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee said it was "exercising inadequate supervision" and a proper analysis of loan books of the banks was not done[22] while a separate parliamentary banking inquiry blamed the financial watchdog for the economic crash.[23][24]

The regulator’s processes and reports, and the findings of external scrutineers, any of which should have raised red flags, failed to do so. As a result, they did not see the enormity of the risks being taken by the banks and the calamity that was to overwhelm them.[25]

The European Commission in a November 2010 review of the financial crisis said "Some national supervisory authorities failed dramatically. We know that in Ireland there was almost no supervision of the large banks."[26] Two months later, the President of the EU Commission in an angry exchange in the European Parliament, with a vehemence that shocked his audience, said that "the problems of Ireland were created by the irresponsible financial behaviour of some Irish institutions, and by the lack of supervision in the Irish market."[27]

The Taoiseach said that the CBOI had the Government put in place contingency plans to provide armed Defence Force security for major Irish banks over public order fears if a cash shortage was triggered at the height of the financial crisis.[28]

The Central Bank have the power to investigate surviving banks with the evidence of their slack lending controls during the boom years but refused and wouldn't comment on the reasons for not doing so.[29]

A report by Dáil Éireann appointed barrister Senan Allen SC found that there was "no basis for the allegations" that the Central Bank had withheld documents from the parliamentary inquiry into the banking crisis[30][31]

The reckless lending practices of banks cost taxpayers "well over"[32] €100 billion or €25,000 for every man, woman and child living in the Republic of Ireland.[33][34]

Separation of regulation - The Financial Regulator[edit]

Main article: Financial Regulator

In 2003 a new separate division of the Central Bank, with its own Chairman, Chief Executive, and board, was established as the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority. This was as a compromise between those who favoured a fully independent regulator and those who believed the Central Bank should maintain full control of regulation of the financial services industry. This division of the Bank authorised and regulated all financial institutions (including insurance undertakings, collective investment funds and credit unions) in Ireland.[35][36]

Under the 2003 arrangements the Central Bank provided the Financial Regulator with services. The Regulator’s industry panel, which provided the Regulator with feedback on its charges and policies said in April 2007 that they had ‘‘major concerns with the quality and cost of the services’’ provided to the Regulator by the Central Bank.[37]

The operations of the Financial Regulator were severely criticised in a report marked "strictly confidential and not for publication", as being poor value for money. The report stated that there were too few specialist staff, compared with its peers.[38] There were also serious shortcomings in the crucial supervisory area.[39][40] and the report was particularly critical of the regulator’s senior management structure, concluding that a clear management and oversight framework, which ensures that issues are escalated through the organisation, was "not fully in place".[41]

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, said that his decision in 2001 to create a new financial regulator was one of the main reasons for the collapse of the Irish banking sector and "if I had a chance again I wouldn’t do it".[42] "The banks were irresponsible," he admitted "But the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator seemed happy. They were never into us saying – ever – 'Listen, we must put legislation and control on the banks'. That never happened."[43]

The April 2009, the new Financial Regulator, outlined his shock at the poor level of financial regulation he discovered when he started his job the previous January and "it is clear to me we need to undertake a fundamental overhaul of the regulatory model for financial services in Ireland."[44] He also said that there was a "critical absence of intellectual firepower within his staff"[45]

Following the banking collapse of 2008–9, the Government[46] re-unified the organisation under a Central Bank of Ireland Commission to replace the board structures of the Central Bank and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority which became effective on 1 October 2010. A July 2009 editorial, in the respected, Sunday Business Post, said "returning the key powers of regulation to the Central Bank will be useless unless there is a fundamental change in the culture of the organisation. This does not require a complete change of personnel, but a change of key personnel."[47] There can be no denying that the spinning off of the Financial Regulator from the functions of the Central Bank in 2003, was an outright failure.[48][49]

Post crisis reforms[edit]

On 4 November 2014 the European Central Bank formally took supervisory control over the biggest banks in Europe, including those in Ireland. While banking supervision staff in the Central Bank of Ireland remained, a pan-European approach to how banks were supervised was introduced, the Single Supervisory Mechanism.[50]

Subsequent to the parliamentary inquiry into the domestic banking crisis the organization said that the actions taken by the Central Bank combined with legislative reform and an overhaul of international regulation has enabled the organisation to deliver effective supervision and financial stability measures since the crisis. Governor Philip Lane said, ‘The report describes a failure to identify risks to financial stability and recognises the lack of an overall European framework to deal with the financial and fiscal crises. Many of the issues identified by the Inquiry relating to the Central Bank have been substantially addressed or continue to be addressed through measures including significant institutional reform, additional powers, the promotion of a culture of challenge and the implementation of the model of assertive risk-based supervision underpinned by a credible threat of enforcement.' [51]

In early 2015 the Central Bank introduced macro-prudential mortgage regulations to increase the resilience of the banking and household sectors to the property market and to reduce the risk of bank credit and house price spirals from developing in the future.[52][53] These measures are to be reviewed annually, with a report to be published in November 2016.[54]


The headquarters in Dame Street was built at a height far exceeding what was allowed in the planning permission granted by Dublin City Council. The Minister for Local Government told the Dail that he "did not believe that because an organization is very important and is very rich they should be allowed to break the planning laws."[55]

The 2005 the Central Bank was criticised for publishing a report, which it was said, read a bit like a promotional brochure for the money lending industry. It included a section devoted to arguing why moneylenders should be allowed to charge as much as they do. (188%-plus collection fees of up to 11%.)[56]

The New York Times referred to Ireland as the "Wild West of European finance" in April 2005 which was seen to underline the fragility of the Country's Financial Regulation system.[57][58][59][60]

Their consumer panel stated that the Central Bank was slow to respond to consumer issues and '"appears to seek complexity and obstacles rather than to seek consumer-oriented solutions to current and emerging problems"'. And it warned that this approach can undermine consumer confidence in the "efficacy of the regulatory process."[61]

The same month in 2006, a government-appointed panel that consists of banking and insurance representatives revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the Central Bank’s skills base.[62][63]

In July 2007, the Comptroller and Auditor General called for an independent review of the inspection process for financial institutions carried out by the Central Bank. The Comptroller urged the introduction of clearly defined risk categories for individual areas of financial services, so that the appropriate level of supervision required for each institution can be implemented in line with the risk involved.[64]

A businessman succeeded in getting himself appointed a Director by giving a large personal gift, in sterling cash, to Bertie Ahern.[65] When the commercial banks began to lend recklessly, which lead to Ireland losing her economic sovereignty, none of the Directors had experience of bank regulation[66] but the CBOI had the expertise available of a "romantic novelist" sitting on its board.[67]

The CBOI knew that Allied Irish Banks were overcharging consumers in FX fees but failed to act for a number of years.[68][69] They gave a parliamentary inquiry the "false impression" that they were unaware of it.[70][71] The whistleblower who gave them the information was requested to come to a meeting with the CBOI but was only invited to withdraw the allegations of wrongdoing and at the same time found himself removed from his position at Allied Irish Banks without any reason given. After his case was highlighted in the media, the CBOI officially apologised on how the authorities treated him, eight years after alerting them of overcharging.[72]

The same whistleblower also sent a report entitled ‘Special Investigation Goodbody Stockbrokers – Trading in AIB Shares’ to the CBOI, in which questions were raised about the legality of a device used to trade in AIB shares through offshore locations in blacklisted tax havens Nevis and Vanuatu. No action was taken.[73]

In 2008 as the Irish economy collapsed, it spent €115,000 on one staff party.[74]

In early 2009, the Financial Services Consultative Consumer Panel, said that most consumers have lost "significant amounts of money" due to the inadequacies of the financial regulatory structure. It also criticised the "deficient" response of the CBOI to threats to consumers, including the Irish property bubble.[75] In response they said "It is clear that the actions we took were insufficient and were not taken early enough,"[76][77][78]

Then leader of the opposition and future Taoiseach Enda Kenny. called for the board and senior management of the Central Bank to be sacked.[79][80] Independent Senator, Shane Ross said that the CBOI was an institution that had lost the faith of the international markets "They think it is actually genetically flawed. That is the problem we’re going to have to attack next."[81]

Ernst & Young was hired, to advise the Central Bank of Ireland on the €440 billion bank guarantee scheme in January 2009,[82] despite the fact that Ernst & Young[83][84] was being investigated[85] arising from its audits of Anglo Irish Bank[86] and had also refused to appear before a parliamentary committee following the collapse of the same bank after receiving "legal advice".[87][88] Their then head of financial regulation told the same committee that "a lay person would expect that issues of this nature and this magnitude would have been picked up" by the external auditors.[86]

At the same time the lowest tender was not chosen for the fit out of new offices in Spencer Dock in Dublin's docklands.[89]

Following the failure of existing regulatory structures to prevent excessive lending to the property sector,[90] consultants Mazars, which were brought in to review operations said that "regulatory expertise was lacking in some areas."[91] Responding to the highlighted weakness, the Minister for Finance, said "substantial additional staff with the skills, experience and market-based expertise will be appointed. Those recruited will also have the expertise to regulate the international financial services sector."[92] He also announced that all consumer functions will be '"re-assigned"' to other agencies.[93]

In July 2009, the CBOI blocked insurers and banks from making any critical statements containing "any references" to them by means either of "public press statements" or un-approved public references, whether "written or oral."[94]

Two reports of an investigation into the "wholly inappropriate sale of perpectual bonds" by Davy Stockbrokers to credit unions failed to involve any of the credit unions affected, leaving them "in the dark and powerless to add any value to the findings of this investigation". The CBOI then declined to give them access to the reports. The Chairman of one the Credit Union's who suffered large losses told his members "The failure to publish the reports is to place the complaints process in a shroud of secrecy. Such a failure of openness, transparency and fairness can only serve to undermine confidence in the complaints process, forcing those with grievances into the courts. Such a course of action is not in the interest of any of the stakeholders."[95]

The next month, the head of the German Financial Regulator told the Bundestag Finance Committee that the failure of the "terrible" Depfa Bank, which was completely supervised by its Irish equivalent, lead to the collapse of its German parent which forced Berlin to bail it out at a cost of €102 billion. The committee was told that the alternative was a run on German banks and the eventual collapse of the European finance system and "You would have woken up on Monday morning in the film Apocalypse Now"[96] The bank had just 319 employees[97][98] but was allowed to guarantee loans valued at 14 times Ireland's Gross Domestic Product.[99] A former Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland was a director of Depfa.[100] Regulatory failure was acknowledged and this is a source of continuing friction with the German authorities.[101][102]

Transparency International[103] have questioned whether the Central Bank should continue to have an exemption from Freedom of Information legislation.[104] Compliance experts[105][106] have said "The most offensive confidentiality provision in Ireland is the one which protects the Central Bank"[107] Both the Financial Services Ombudsman and Information Commissioner,[108] are among others,[109][110][111] who called for a lifting of the confidentiality applied by the Central Bank to much of its work.[112][113] Other EU regulators have a policy of transparency.[114][115]

The director general of the Free Legal Advice Centres in October 2009 said, the code of conduct on mortgage arrears produced by the Central Bank was "deeply disappointing", and did not offer enough protection for consumers.[116]

The Irish Times, the country's "newspaper of record" said the organisation "has a death wish and its regulatory edict verges on the Pythonesque, eating into what is left of its credibility."[117]

In a speech, the Governor of the Central Bank implied that "ignorance and inattention" were to blame for regulatory failure.[118]

The Consumer Consultative Panel, in December 2009 said that they were unable to function for almost a year because officials ignored requests for meetings and "we believe it is unacceptable that the board of the financial regulation section has failed to take responsibility for their stewardship of the organisation during the last six years. They did not understand many of the sectors and financial products it regulates."[119] These failings undermines their ability to enhance or enforce corporate governance in the wider financial services sector. It also warned "that the reforms announced to date were not sufficient to avert more crisis' in the future."[120][121]

Following a February 2010 review by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the organisation admitted that it paid for 52 spouses of staff to go on foreign trips over a two-year period.[122]

The next month opposition politicians described an advertisement seeking to appoint a consultant to oversee its art collection as insensitive and inappropriate at the dept of the credit crunch depression.[123]

The Central Bank should give an annual statement to the Dáil on bank supervision to make regulation '‘more accountable’’, the Comptroller and Auditor General said in March 2010 after highlighting shortcomings in financial regulation leading up to the financial crisis .[124][125][126]

German newspaper Siddeutsche Zeitung described as "remarkable" the CBOI's handling of a whistleblower's revelations that the Irish subsidiary of Unicredit Bank had 40 times the permitted level of deviation of minimum liquidity requirements. It is alleged they alo did not inform the parent bank and the relevant regulatory authority.[127][128][129]

High risk and sloppy lending practices at the Irish Nationwide Building Society were reported to the Central Bank by external accountants over a long period but did not change its behaviour. The former head of compliance, became a whistle blower by reporting "dodgy practices". Separately the Vice Chairman told the CBOI of his concerns in great detail,[130] but again they did nothing.[131][132] It required a €5.4 billion[133] Government bailout, leaving it in State ownership.[134][135] A letter which they received concerning the legality of the illicit loans by the Building Society to Sean FitzPatrick had "gone missing".,[136] but the CBOI knew for 8 years about the clandestine loans of up to €129 million but did nothing.[137] Management at Irish Nationwide used to arrange meetings with the CBOI for late on a Friday afternoon, knowing that the regulator's staff would not want for the encounter to last for more than an hour because it would nibble into their weekend.[138] In a damning report following Nationwide's collapse, the Regulator was found, for decades, to "have understood and delineated the critical INBS issues well before they caused trouble, but equally failed fully to use its powers under the [Building Societies] Act by pursuing these issues, being apparently mollified by bland assurances" and the CBOI "did not meet standards which might be reasonably expected".[139]

Reports[140][140][141] on the financial crisis did not ask the opinion of their consumer consultative panel, who in a statement said it was "very disappointed that, in particular, the report by the Governor did not refer to the work of the panel in highlighting many of the failings of the regulation in the past number of years."[142][143] Fresh areas of concern included the lack of minute-taking at senior levels in the Financial Regulation section and among its sub-board. Central Bank minutes and those of then financial services regulatory authority typically recorded "only the broad consensus" on issues discussed and decisions taken."They do not describe in any detail the frequent debates and often significant differences of opinion that, according to board and authority members, existed on some issues, especially the possible risks to financial stability,"[144]"If this is the situation that prevails, then this has to be a source of concern regarding the standard of governance." Author Fintan O'Toole wrote of the same report, [it] "is notably evasive on one of the key questions - political and governmental collusion with the bankers. 'Evasive' is not the right word; 'tortured','twisted' or 'tormented' might be more accurate."[145]

One of the reports noted that the Central Bank had found substantial departures from credit policy during inspections of banks. Secondly intrusive demands from regulatory staff could be and were set aside after direct representations were made to senior regulators.[146][147]

Two months later, it emerged that their regulatory section authorised the Quinn Group (which subsequently went into administration) to borrow €169 million from Anglo Irish Bank in order to buy Anglo Irish shares.[148]).[149] Its actions were described as "like the Vatican running an abortion clinic."[150][151][152][153] At a meeting with the Chairman of Quinn Insurance, the Regulator didn’t think it was "fair or appropriate" to "tackle" the tycoon on his investments.[154] The subsequent collapse of the Quinn Group cost the public €1.65 billion.[155]

On her September 2010 state tour to Russia, the President of Ireland Mary McAleese, highlighting the importance of competence, criticised the Central Bank for its role in the run-up to the financial crisis which resulted in tens of thousands of people in mortgage arrears.[156][157]

The same month the Central Bank described as "heroic" the response in the run-up to the blanket guarantee of Ireland's toxic banks. The chairman of Nama and former Revenue Commissioner, said he believed there was only a "quite late engagement," by the Department of Finance with the financial crisis. "The Department relied on the Financial Regulator and the Central Bank and was let down by them," he added. Two months later, Ireland lost its economic sovereignty when it was bailed out by the EU/IMF/ECB troika.[158] The British Government were tipped off, by the Regulator, of the position concerning Anglo Irish Bank before the Irish Cabinet was informed.[159] Whitehall then refused to release documents showing the extent that the CBOI passed market sensitive information to London, citing [Britain's] "public interest".[160]Bank of England minutes show that Ireland’s bank guarantee was blamed in London for bringing global interbank lending to a standstill after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. "Actions announced first by the Irish were both unclear and unco-ordinated and led effectively to a ‘beggar thy neighbour’ policy which froze the international banking system," said a Bank of England minute a fortnight after the guarantee. The Irish guarantee was cited as an example of the lack of international co-ordination, which proved to be as much a trigger for the Financial crisis of 2007–08 as Lehman.[144] The managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said his agency was forced to bail out Ireland because of the wider threat to the rest of the European Union.[161] The Governor conceded that "failure to consult" with other countries "triggered immense pressure for guarantees all over Europe", causing resentment and making it difficult for Ireland "to make its case for burden-sharing with Europe".[162]

Almost simultaneously external reviewers highlighted the "unacceptable" pace of investigation into how the financial system in Ireland came close to collapse "leaves a lot to be desired". This was in contrast to the United States and Iceland, which have moved faster to examine what went wrong. "Furthermore, there has been very little outcome from ongoing investigations into dealings at some of our major institutions by the Central Bank."[163][164]

Criminal prosecutions by the Garda Síochána against managers in banks who committed offences are being undermined as CBOI staff were aware of the alleged offences, took no action to stop them and thus provided an arguable defence to those who committed wrongdoing, as they could reasonably claim they were acting with the approval of regulatory authorities at all times. One line of inquiry investigated by detectives was that they did not inform the Department of Finance of all facts they knew about the banking industry. Two arrests were made following a complaint made by two officials of the Central Bank.[165][166][167][168] Two directors of a defunct Bank walked free from court after a judge ruled they should serve community service for their role in an illegal loans-for-shares scam despite being found guilty. "It seems to me it would be most unjust to imprison these two gentlemen when it seems to me a state agency [the Central Bank] has led them in error and illegality," the judge said.[169] and it was "incredible....red lights didn’t go off some place in the regulator’s office and the appropriate legal advice was not sought" and they are "more anxious to solve the problem than comply with the technicalities of the law, but nonetheless the law".[170] The Irish Examiner described the CBOI's subsequent refusal to comment or explain its role on crimes committed with its nod as a critical institution of the Irish State as "omerta".[171]

Within days, after the arrival in Ireland of the International Monetary Fund, they admitted that the stress tests on banks, that the CBOI conducted 4 months earlier[172] "failed to convince financial markets"[173] and the level of capital that the banks needed which they recently described as at "shock and awe" safety levels would be increased by 50 per cent.[174] Two months later, a European Commission document revealed, that a second stress test on Irish Banks, would be "peer reviewed" by the Banca d'Italia and the French Commission Bancaire "to strengthen the external credibility of the process". This would be in addition to the consultants hired to help the Central Bank, at a cost of nearly €40 million,[175] Boston Consulting Group, Blackrock Solutions, and Barclays Capital.[176] However Boston Consulting, expressed reservations about the process-saying it would have preferred to carry out more file reviews of bank assets, blaming "time and resource constraints imposed by the Central Bank."[177] A secret internal investigation was held following repeated claims by a whistleblower that the stress test data was "doctored" and "dressed up" to ensure that Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Banks and Irish Life & Permanent passed, but the investigation found there was no reason for concern. Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said "Perhaps the Oireachtas Financial Committee could look into these allegations on behalf of the Dail. It is not appropriate for the Central Bank to be the only body investigating serious allegations against it by one of its own employees."[178] Moody's and Standard & Poor's[179] credit agencies subsequently said Irish banks would need further large cash injections from the taxpayer.[180][181] Subsequently the European Commission found that the CBOI engaged in "financial nationalism" to ensure that Irish Banks passed the Stress Tests.[182] University College Dublin research found after the stress tests failed to properly assess the true condition of the country's banks the Governor made "the costliest mistake ever made by an Irish person."[183]

The €50 billion of emergency funding given to Irish banks by the Central Bank of Ireland could pose a threat to the very solvency of the Central Bank itself, a report by Citi concluded in January 2011.[184][185][186]

In March 2011, the Free Legal Advice Centres criticised the CBOI for failing to regulate hire-purchase agreements saying "that some of the worst credit practices take place on garage forecourts when people are sold hire purchase for a car."[187]

At one time, the Governor was said to be one of the highest paid Central Bankers in the world.[188] An "endemic culture of rewarding failure" has meant that not one person in the Central Bank has been sacked for their role in the worst financial and economic crisis in Ireland's history, a leading economist said in August 2011.[189] A media commentator accused the CBOI of operating in an "Alice in Wonderland" fairy tale by continually self judging its own performance as being of the highest grade thus giving all staff at least one extra day's holidays.[190]

Investors blasted the CBOI in October 2011 after losing tens of million of euros in what a High Court Judge described as "a sort of an Irish ponzi scheme" saying regulators should have spotted the problems earlier. An inquiry was carried out, on how the Central Bank handled the affair. This found that a whistle blower told them the true position but the CBOI instead "relied upon a letter [from the Directors] confirming that all equity monies received had been accounted for in the firm's books and records" which provided "unjustified comfort to the Central Bank regarding the safety of client funds"[191][192][193][194][195][196]

In March 2012, it fined a stockbrokers for failing to report trades to allow them prevent market abuse and failed to establish "adequate policies and procedures".[197] A Director and shareholder of that firm who was present when most of the regulatory breaches took place was then appointed Head of Stockbroking Supervision at the Central Bank.[198]

The decision to continue printing euro notes in Dublin when those notes could be printed much more cheaply on existing presses elsewhere was described a colossal waste of money in April 2012. Its senior officials also earn more than their counterparts in the United States.[199] Over €60,000 is spent per week on third party legal services[200] and will spend €500,000 alone to move its iconic golden ball from outside its current headquarters on Dame Street in Dublin to its new €140m base on North Wall Quay.[201]

Early in 2013, Fianna Fáil called on the CBOI to publish a top secret report that found major and numerous problems with Irish stockbrokers. They said "it was essential investors had confidence that their money was being handled properly." The report warned there will have to be mergers of firms to ensure the industry survives, but this process will have to be done in a controlled way—because any instability in the sector could pose a danger to many people's savings, and prevent new businesses from raising money at a time when banks are not lending.[202][203]

The Government wanted the CBOI to "do more" to tackle the issue of mortgage arrears. "In our view, the Regulator is not moving as strongly as it could be. The money is there. The legislation is there. Now is the time to get on with it," a government source said in February 2013. In response the CBOI cautioned against interference and confirmed that officials haven't been directly confronted on the issue, but clear signals have been sent that the Government wanted more action.[204]

Two months later the National Treasury Management Agency chastised the Central Bank for saying that Irish insurance and pension funds held just €11m of Irish government bonds, down from €945m at the start of 2012 suggesting that Irish investors were ditching the bonds just as the Government was trying to return to the markets. "These figures do not reflect the true level of Irish government bonds held by domestic pension funds and insurance companies" The CBOI took down their statistics from its official website the day after their publication but refused to say whether their data was correct.[205]

The next day they issued a silver €10 commemorative coin in honour of James Joyce that misquoted a famous line from his masterwork Ulysses[206] despite being warned on at least two occasions by the Department of Finance over difficulties with copyright and design.[207]

Following the disclosure of taped conversations of executives of Anglo Irish Bank discussing the bank guarantee, which cost Ireland its economic independence, the Irish Independent called the Central Bank "incompetent" in June 2013.[208] The transcripts showed the executives saying they didn't "want any fucking bolloxology"(sic) from the Central Bank ("our buddies in Dame Street")[209] who were a "shower of clowns"[210] who were "effectively egging us [Anglo] on" to break the law.[211] The CBOI days later got the government to guarantee the banking system using financial data which the Anglo Irish Bank Chief Executive said he just 'picked it out of my arse'.[212] German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the calls were "contemptible".[213][214] Senior politicians expressed astonishment when the Central Bank announced it would not be making criminal complaints either to the Gardaí or the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement over the tapes.[215] The CBOI later admitted of a joint golf day between Central and Anglo Irish bank Directors at Druids Glen shortly before the bank guarantee was announced.[216]

An internal whistle-blower revealed problems with the CBOI's outsourcing of its IT infrastructure. "Ask yourself this, what would be the consequences of any type of [data leak]? Even if the breach did not touch the money transfers and was only information, much of it is commercially sensitive and the possible liability [to the taxpayer] large," After their outsourced computers crashed, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson, said "I wonder if Irish people would be happy to know that all the data for the most important bank in the State is being held in a private company’s control centre which has experienced one power blackout already this year?"[217] Months later following another IT crash, a staff member wrote to a TD claiming that the "IT system has been unstable since being moved, (separate to the process failures), yet they continue to move more and more systems out while the instability continues".[218] It subsequently encountered technical problems which forced it to push back the deadline for firms to submit a key document in the regulator’s fitness and probity regime.[219]

Ireland is hoping to be the home of Sharia Islamic finance in Europe. Enda Kenny told the Irish Funds Industry Association that he was doing everything he could to "ensure" Dublin became "a centre of excellence for Islamic finances".[220] These efforts received a setback when a product, approved by the CBOI as Sharia-compliant, was found to have violated Islamic law in Malaysia and could warrant a penalty of up to 8 years in jail.[221]

The Irish League of Credit Unions in response to the consolidation of the sector, accused the CBOI of acting beyond its statutory powers and "cloak the proceedings and the challenge to its decisions from public scrutiny" and added that it was "important that State regulators operate openly, clearly and accountably", and it warned the Central Bank against trying "to scare the public or exaggerate risk for the sake of achieving unarticulated policy objectives." The cost to the State of the rationalisation is expected to be in the region of €1 billion.[222] CBOI regulations will ensure that credit unions are restricted from competing effectively with other financial service providers into the future.[223] A peer review of the work of the Registry of Credit Unions, which is part of the Central Bank, told it that more on-site inspections of smaller credit unions were needed and to communicate better.[224]

Following the collapse of Ireland's oldest and third-largest stockbroker, Bloxham Stockbrokers, after the firm had been discovered to be cooking its books for five years, the CBOI refused to answer questions about regulatory failure or confirm that it will publish a report outlining what went wrong and how to make sure something like this does not happen again. They did not refer anyone to the Gardaí or the Director of Public Prosecutions.[225][226] Over 3 years later, the Regulatory Board of Chartered Accountants Ireland's inquiry into the performance of the auditors of the stockbroker was still being held up by the lack of action from the Central Bank's own research into the collapse.[227]

The CBOI were aware of "corporate governance issues" at Ireland's largest credit union in Newbridge County Kildare for eight years before it had to bailed out by the state at a cost of €54 million.[228][229][230]

Debt experts authorised to strike deals through the Insolvency Service of Ireland were threatened with criminal prosecution by the Central Bank unless they became regulated by themselves notwithstanding that both accountants and lawyers are already regulated by their own respective professional associations. The extra red tape made some of the experts' jobs "unworkable", resulting in delays for borrowers trying to resolve their debt problems.[231] The Insolvency Service then admitted that over-borrowed families find it difficult to get a financial expert to take on their cases.[232]

In November 2013, the organisation's regulation failed to detect "accounting issues" at the country's largest car insurer, RSA/123.i.e. The problems had been occurring for at least two years and its foreign parent had to inject €400 million to keep its Irish subsidiary in business.[233][234][235][236] 14 months later the Central Bank hinted that it lacks sufficient supervisory expertise to police the sector, and indicated it is worried about the financial health of at least three insurers.[237] The Consumers' Association of Ireland criticized the CBOI for issuing a directive to the car insurance industry to increase the prices they charge the public and the National Competitiveness Council slammed rises in the cost of many types of insurance policies as barriers to Ireland's competitiveness and laid the blame at the regulators' door.[238][239] A testy exchange followed with the Department of Finance, who requested the CBOI to report on any issues of concern, got the response they were primarily accountable to the Oireachtas and not directly to the department.[240] The CBOI only relented and gave the information after the Minister wrote to the Governor to state that he was "aware of poor financial reports from certain domestic insurance companies: job losses, and reports of an overall negative outlook for the sector domestically" that could have implications for "the Exchequer, policyholders and the wider financial system".[241] A damning January 2016 assessment by international credit ratings agency, Standards & Poors, said the handling of various insurance company failures by the regulator raised questions about its ability to regulate the sector.[242]

The CBOI was found out to be producing "useless" mortgage statistics after it emerged it excluded large numbers of non-performing home loans from its figures[243] and its Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears[244] was on the side of protecting the lender, not the public.[245][246] A Central Bank-initiated scheme to assist indebted families have their debts restructured was a spectacular failure as just one in ten chosen for the scheme actually ended up with a deal.[247] They also published misleading figures by claiming mortgages holders are paying much lower interest rates on home loans than they actually are. When the massive discrepancy was detected by an external expert the CBOI conceded that they are going to have to change how they calculate average mortgage rates.[248] The regulator considered bypassing the state funded Money Advice and Budgeting Service, who works with those in mortgage distress, and wanted consumers to deal with a foreign organisation with no experience in the area.[249] It has no idea how many mortgages were sold to unregulated "vulture funds" which leaves the homeowners vulnerable to being mistreated if they are in arrears.[250] Large-scale breaches of the statutory code of conduct on mortgage arrears by banks and other lenders are unpoliced by the regulator.[251] Fianna Fáil said that CBOI mortgage lending rules were designed to discourage people from home ownership and hit families trying to move home and "the failure of the Central Bank to impose a single sanction against a lender is a worrying indication of a continuing deferential approach to the banks by the regulatory authorities",[252] and later ignored a call by the Taoiseach to "name and shame" lenders who breached the mortgage codes of conduct.[253] An economist blamed the same rules for contributing to a sharp fall in the growth of construction in 2014/2015 [254] The Economic and Social Research Institute in March 2015 found that the same measures would result in fewer houses being built, fewer mortgage loans being issued,higher rents and unsustainable transport patterns.[255] The think tank also said first-time buyers should have been treated the same as other borrowers, dismissing the Central Bank's argument that first-time buyers are a different risk proposition for banks and "a wide number of studies… conclude that when credit conditions are liberalised, it is relatively younger and poorer households who tend to 'benefit' from greater credit provision,"[256][257] A Fine Gael TD told the Dáil "I am at a complete loss to understand how the Central Bank does not know how many distressed mortgages have been moved from a tracker to a variable rate. I remain confused, exasperated and unsure of how to get the information and I had been sent around the houses and down every avenue by the Central Bank."[258] The CBOI were later accused of not wanting people to be able buy their own home by promoting renting from landlords.[259]

The Central Bank in April 2014 arbitrarily excluded the majority of consumers from getting compensation who were missold Payment Protection Insurance. UK banks provided over £22bn for PPI misselling costs – which, if scaled on a pro-rata basis, is many multiples of the compensation the Irish banks were asked to repay. The offending banks were also not fined which was in sharp contrast to the regime imposed on UK banks.[260] Lawyers were appalled at the "reckless" advice, the CBOI gave consumers who were missold PPI policies, that "will play into the hands of the financial institution."[261]

Months later a whistle-blower, inside a large multinational financial institution, provided the CBOI with a detailed dossier of flagrant breaches of the regulatory requirements aimed at protecting Irish consumers. The Regulator agreed that the affected members of the public need not be compensated, for the payment of what was described as a "paltry" and "measly", fine.[262]

Weeks later,a former Governor and their former head of Financial Regulation both snubbed invitations from the Leinster House Public Accounts Committee to appear before it to answer questions on the €440bn bank guarantee .[263]

A report[264] by the Washington DC based International Monetary Fund raised concerns that the Central Bank of Ireland had high staff turnover in some areas which had an knock-on impact on its effectiveness and said officials should make more use of on-site inspections and pursue all of its available enforcement authority, including criminal prosecutions.[265]

A 2014 detailed report by the Free Legal Advice Centres concluded that consumers were robbed of many of their rights and protections across the financial sector and singling out the Central Bank for criticism, said regulations governing consumer protection remain deeply flawed.[266] It contacted the proprietors of a media organization in late 2014, in an attempt to silence a journalist who criticized its efforts to protect consumers.[267][268] In Spring 2015, a peer review of the "light touch" consumer protection function of the Central Bank carried out by the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets told it to do more to ensure consumers are treated fairly by banks, insurers and other financial firms.[269][270][271]

The Irish Ambassador to London alerted the Minister for Finance of "very negative comments" from British financial institutions about their experience in dealing with the CBOI. The April 2015 note added: "In their view this has the potential to undermine the Irish financial sector."[272][273]

Nigerian fraudsters stung the CBOI (which is tasked with maintaining the safety and integrity of the Irish banking system) by fooling them into transferring up to €1.4m into a bogus online account.[274][275]

When the Central Bank became subject to external scrutiny under Freedom of Information legislation the Deputy Governor said "it’s very detrimental and problematic to the way we function and we’ll be speaking more on the phone and writing less in the future".[276] Accounting firm, Ernst & Young received fees from the Central Bank totalling between €21m and €22m over two years but refused to say what type of work they engaged in, in order to receive the large pay-out. A Government Fine Gael backbencher said "The size of the payments would strongly suggest a requirement to disclose what the fees were for. This is a significant amount of money at a time when the public finances were under pressure and families were making significant sacrifices to help get the country back on its feet. The Central Bank requires a level of transparency from financial institutions in this State. Therefore, I think it is reasonable that the Central Bank would disclose what these payment were for and apply the same level of transparency to itself." [277]

In June 2015, they were criticized by the left wing in Dáil Éireann[278] for doing nothing to protect those on low incomes, the vulnerable or have low levels of financial literacy from loan sharks when it emerged that up to 100,000 of the 360,000 loans given by moneylenders broke the law.[279]

The CBOI's supervision of anti-money laundering activities to stop the proceeds of criminal activities and terrorist financing in the Irish financial system is "woefully insufficient" a Deputy Governor conceded in comments not intended for public disclosure.[271]

It was revealed in August 2015, that they were aware for years but inexplicably failed to act, of the mistreatment (deliberate overcharging, subsequent arrears followed by legal proceedings;) of 1372 mortgage holders by Permanent TSB, the "serious failure" included 61 families been wrongly evicted from their homes. A subsequent editorial in Ireland's largest selling newspaper said:- "How often have Edmund Burke's words echoed despairingly 'The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' For the Central Bank to preside over such inequity while having being warned, is nothing short of disgraceful." [280][281]

The next month the Regulation Levy charged to financial services entities was increased by 40%, not to fund Regulation but to prop up a €300 million deficit in the "gold-plated" defined benefit pension scheme enjoyed by all its 1,364 staff. The rise in the levy was passed on to consumers by banks, insurers and investment funds and put some small operators out of business.[282][283] Weeks later it was revealed that the CBOI for years breached emergency laws cutting pay and banning bonuses in the public sector by secretly giving managers extra cash and reducing the surplus going to the Exchequer. Those getting the bonuses had to sign a contract promising to keep "the fact and the amount of the payment confidential". A trade unionist said "Given the role that a bonus culture played in our banking crisis, it is extraordinary that the Central Bank - charged with oversight of the country's banking system - now appears to itself be part of that culture."[284] The Public Accounts Committee Chairman said the CBOI was "giving the two fingers to the Government again, which they did previously".[285] Staff belonging to a trade union then passed a motion of no confidence in management by 92%.[286] Further controversy followed when the CBOI claimed the payments were a retention scheme to ensure that key staff do not leave, when it was learnt that they allowed the same managers to go on secondment to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.[287]

It emerged in October 2015 that they were warned six years earlier about the scandal of banks wrongly taking valuable tracker mortgages off at least 10,000 homeowners costing them thousands of euro every year in overpayments but turned a blind eye.[288]

A former senior internal auditor alleged that they were forced to delete critical findings in an internal audit. The case is before the Workplace Rights Commission. The Central Bank accepted the finding that it was not in full compliance with some aspects the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies, however it published its justification for this.[289]

The state spending watchdog criticised the Central Bank in April 2016 for handing out a severance payment worth €73,000 to an individual who had not even begun to work for it and two exit packages worth €61,000 each were made to staff who had worked at the bank for less than two years. The Comptroller and Auditor General said the three payments "suggest that the Central Bank needs to review its procedures for managing recruitment and probation". The audit report additionally found that the CBOI had "more recourse" to termination agreements and severance payments than other public sector bodies and said "the frequency of payments could imply weaknesses in the Central Bank’s procedures for managing performance or addressing other human resource issues,".[290][291][292] Details of legal advice it paid for is not also always documented.[293]

List of Governors of the Bank[edit]

The main entrance to the Central Bank of Ireland head office

The Governor of the Bank is appointed by the President of Ireland on advice of the Irish government.

Term of office
Joseph Brennan
James J. McElligott
Maurice Moynihan
T. K. Whitaker
Charles Henry Murray
Tomás F. Ó Cofaigh
Maurice F. Doyle
Maurice O'Connell[294]
John Hurley
Patrick Honohan
Philip R. Lane

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°20′40″N 6°15′48″W / 53.344569°N 6.263269°W / 53.344569; -6.263269