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German finance minister slams Irish bankers as 'aloof super humans'

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble gestures as he addresses a news conference to presents 2014 federal budget bill in Berlin June 26
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble gestures as he addresses a news conference to presents 2014 federal budget bill in Berlin June 26

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble slammed Irish bankers caught on tape joking about a bailout, calling them "aloof super humans" worthy of contempt.

Schaeuble's remarks quoted by an edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung to be published on Sunday echoed comments by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.

Transcripts of telephone conversations from 2008 between bankers at Anglo Irish Bank have caused outrage in Ireland and beyond in recent days.

In the tapes, the bankers made light of the Irish government's decision at the height of the global financial crisis to guarantee their liabilities.

They are also heard singing a pre-war verse of the German national anthem, with the words "Deutschland ueber alles".

"These bankers seem to like themselves in the role of aloof super humans who only have contempt for their fellow humans," Schaeuble was quoted as saying. "Instead it is they who should get our contempt and to whose game we should put a stop."

Ireland's government gave a blanket guarantee to Anglo and other lenders in 2008 to keep them operating. The decision eventually cost Irish taxpayers some 30 billion euros, forcing Dublin to seek a European bailout in late 2010.

Schaeuble said the tape recordings highlighted "how necessary and important it was to introduce clear rules into the financial markets".

EU finance ministers agreed on Thursday new rules for dealing with failing banks which would hit shareholders, bondholders and wealthy depositors before taxpayers.

"Exceptions show that it remains important not to think that everything is well now but to stay cautious and alert, in order to fight such scheming," Schaeuble was quoted as saying.

(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by David Cowell)

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