Risk and Financial Armageddon in Ireland: The Politics of the Galway Tent



This article examines Ireland's financial crisis. Thus far explanation has focused on individual or collective administrative failure: the office(r) of financial regulation singularly failed to scrutinise the banks sufficiently: it was a matter of poor risk management. While this article would agree that the (mis)management of risk was important to how the crisis unfolded, I argue that an explanation of why the crisis emerged demands an altogether different focus. Put simply, after financial regulatory reform, a reconfiguration of risk in politics took place as the locus of decision-making about financial risk shifted from the realm of the political/legal (Cabinet/Central Bank/Department of Finance) to the economic/legal (retail banks, shareholders/consumers). It was a critical development, one that mirrored events taking place in the UK, upon which Ireland drew experience, for now assessments about risk undertaken by the banks demanded that intervention could be justified only on an ascertainable risk, not a theoretical uncertainty (or spurious fear). The evidentiary bar for intervention was therefore raised, removing the precautionary instinct implicit in the prudential governance of Central Banks.