European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, today launched her annual report for 2014.
The report gives specific mention to the “Trichet Letters” case which concerned a request for access by Journalist, Gavin Sheridan, to correspondence sent by the then President of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, to the Irish government in late 2010 at the height of the financial crisis.
We provided legal advice to Mr Sheridan in relation to his submissions to the Ombudsman.
In a video feature, the official who conducted the investigation, Mr Lambros Papadias, describes this case as one of the most important of 2014 since it demonstrated the pragmatic approach of the Ombudsman and the new willingness of the ECB to be more transparent in relation to its monetary policy activities.
It had long been suspected that the ECB put pressure on Ireland to accept a bailout and had threatened to withdraw support for the Irish banks thereby presenting the possibility that the Irish economy would collapse unless the Irish government accepted a bailout.
The Ombudsman conducted a lengthy investigation and considered that the ECB was justified in refusing access at the time of the request but at the conclusion of her investigation in early 2014 she recommended that the letters should be released given that the threat to the financial stability of the eurozone had now receded. The ECB refused to accept this pragmatic recommendation maintaing that a release would destabilize eurozone economies and would be harmful to euozone fiscal policy. However several months later the new president of the ECB, Mario Draghi, decided to review the position and finally agreed to release the letters to Mr Sheridan.
In a final twist to the tale the letters were then leaked to the Irish Times on the eve of their release to Mr Sheridan.