FORMER TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has advised Poland to keep tight control over financial institutions, saying he wished he had known the importance of doing so when he was taoiseach.
“This is fundamental,” he told Rzeczpospolita , one of Poland’s biggest daily newspapers, in an interview published Monday.
“If I had known this before 2008, Ireland wouldn’t have suffered. I can blame only myself.
“There were problems with Japanese banks, Turkish ones.
“However until it happened here no one wanted to believe that our institutions were similarly endangered.”
Mr Ahern was responding to a question asking him what advice he would give Poland in terms of its economic future.
In another section of the interview Mr Ahern said he does not feel responsible for what he described as the “banks’ wrong policy”.
“Practically, as politicians, we don’t have any control over them. The Central Bank reports but only what it wants to report.
“My mistake was to put too much trust into what the financial people were doing.
“But who would suppose that people in such responsible positions, of huge experience, committed such culpable mistakes and didn’t exercise self-control?”
Discussing the factors that led to Ireland’s economic crisis, Mr Ahern said: “I agree . . . that we were building too much; we believed that there would be buyers of properties forever . . . It was a mistake on our side. But if not for the collapse of Lehman Brothers,
which in my opinion became a catalyst [for] the Irish crisis, we would have two to three years to face the problem.
“Due to the crash in the US we had to face the reality unexpectedly.”
Asked why his government had not made more effort to save during the boom years, Mr Ahern, who describes himself in the interview as “one of the parents” of the Celtic Tiger,
said: “From each side, from each politician, I heard constantly ‘spend, spend’ . . . I was criticised all the time that I spent too little.
“If I had cut spending they would have crucified me.”
During the interview Rzeczpospolita ’s Dublin-based correspondent Zuzanna Reda notes Mr Ahern’s complaint that he has had “a lot of time” on his hands since he stepped down as taoiseach in May 2008. She suggests to him that perhaps “it’s time to think about a comeback”.
Mr Ahern replied: “I am thinking about this. Now, it’s only an idea, but I wonder about running in the presidential elections.
“Still, I have a lot of time to think about this; the election is not until 2011.”