The former managing director of the now defunct Irish Nationwide Building Society has told an inquiry investigating the governance of the lender in the lead-up to its winding-up in 2011 that he always acted in its best interests.

Michael Fingleton described the current inquiry as an "artificially trumped up case" to deflect attention from the Department of Finance and the Central Bank. 

Mr Fingleton said both the regulator and, previously, the financial regulator had full details and knowledge of the activity of INBS at all times, including its commercial lending programme. 

He said it was only in 2008, when the market had changed and the building society had taken action to restrict its own lending programme, that the regulator stepped up its interest. 

He said INBS managed to reduce its exposure by €1 billion in the space of a year from late 2007.

Mr Fingleton said he had been denied access to interviews with employees from the regulator conducted for the inquiry, which could offer important knowledge of the period under review. 

He said it was interviews that the Central Bank had decided on a public inquiry long before the current inquiry team decided to do so. 

He said all 86 employees of INBS were assured by investigators they were only after the "big fish" and that they were offered immunity for "dishing the dirt". 

The former MD of the lender said there had been no allegations made personally to him during the review period that he was in breach of any regulations. 

He said during audits and reports none of the issues currently being raised were communicated directly with him when he was head of Irish Nationwide Building Society. 

Mr Fingleton was also extremely critical of the Central Bank in his address.

He said if the financial regulator, the Central Bank, and the Department of Finance had discharged their statutory obligations to protect the financial stability of the State, then financial institutions would not have suffered such sustained losses.

He also said the Central Bank had information and reports available to it in 2006 that it failed to communicate to financial institutions. He claimed this could have had a significant effect on the stability of banks' lending in the lead-up to the financial crisis.

Mr Fingleton said the regulator was anxious to keep his services after his planned retirement in 2007, saying it would be highly detrimental to INBS if he left then. 

He said he stayed on to facilitate the board and INBS and is now subject to action that was never an issue up until his retirement in 2009. 

He also said current Central Bank Governor Philip Lane had told the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry - before taking up a role with the regulator - that individual banks might decide to take certain risks and it was up to the Central Bank to put a stop to this. 

Mr Fingleton said Professor Lane should be compelled to attend the inquiry to explain these comments, given that he has since said if it was identified there are problems with INBS that they need to be pursued.