Oireachtas incapable of impartial inquiries
The inquiry system we have is like an accused person deciding which judge can hear their case and who the jury members should be
IF ADRIAN Hardiman of the Supreme Court needed an illustration of the incapacity of Dáil Éireann to conduct a fair and independent inquiry into a matter of current controversy, he could not have wished for a more vivid example than the shemozzle over the holding of an inquiry into the banking crisis.
In the robust judgment he gave on why the Oireachtas should be debarred from conducting inquiries that could impugn the good name of individuals, he cited the partisan nature of politics which has marked the debate on the banking inquiry in recent days.
But, far worse than that, there is the consensus in politics and in the media that parliamentary inquiries need the permission of the very agency which, essentially, it should be seeking to hold accountable – the executive branch of government.
Our system of government is founded on the idea that the executive branch is held accountable by the parliament and that parliamentary inquiries are one of a range of instruments by which such accountability is enforced.
But in the bizarre, screwed-up system we have devised, the executive entirely controls the parliament to which it is accountable and therefore there is no accountability and can be no accountability.
There has been the amazing spectacle in the last week of the chairman of the most powerful of our Oireachtas committees, John McGuinness, referring to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin as the Minister to which the committee is “responsible”.
That was followed by Howlin saying he has not yet decided which of two committees should conduct an inquiry. This is Alice in Wonderland stuff and nobody seems to think there is anything at all odd about it.
Has nobody thought there was anything odd about McGuinness being appointed chairman of the Dáil public accounts committee, not by its members nor by the Dáil but by the two leaders of the executive branch of government, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore – the very people Oireachtas committees are supposed to hold to account?
It is as though an accused person gets to decide which judge should hear his or her case, who the members of the jury were to be and what evidence was or was not allowed to be heard!
Anyway, an inquiry into what happened on the night of September 29th, 2008, when the bank guarantee was decided upon, is fairly pointless by now.
It would be interesting, however, to hear why those who favoured the guarantee being urged by David McWilliams did not wonder whether it might be a disaster, since the same David McWilliams at the time had been saying for the previous several years there was going to be a property crash!