Anglo trials get priority, says Noonan

Minister rejects idea of Oireachtas bank investigation parallel to criminal hearings

Michael Noonan: “I don’t see any staffing crisis emerging in any of the banks because of pay caps. €500,000 is an awful lot of money”

Michael Noonan: “I don’t see any staffing crisis emerging in any of the banks because of pay caps. €500,000 is an awful lot of money”

Sat, Feb 1, 2014, 01:00

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said he does not believe the Oireachtas banking inquiry can examine witnesses while the Anglo Irish Bank criminal trials are in progress.

An Oireachtas committee could “scope” out an inquiry, he said, and complete preliminary work that would not prejudice the trials while they were proceeding.

The first Anglo criminal trial is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. “You couldn’t have a committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas examining witnesses in parallel with a court case where some of the same people may be called as witnesses,” said the Minister on a visit to New York.

A new parliamentary committee is likely to hold the inquiry into the banking crisis with Labour TD Ciaran Lynch, chairman of the finance committee, tipped to chair the investigation.


Political mudslinging
Mr Noonan said he did not expect political mudslinging between the parties during the inquiry. “There are a lot of sensible people in the Dáil and in the Seanad. They carried out inquiries before,” he said.

The Dirt inquiry into bank-supported tax evasion in the 1990s was equally politically sensitive, but it was managed “very effectively” under the chairmanship of Fine Gael TD Jim Mitchell, he said.

Mr Noonan ruled out any increase in the €500,000 cap on bankers’ pay or bonuses returning, at least until bank performance improved. “I don’t see any staffing crisis emerging in any of the banks because of pay caps. €500,000 is an awful lot of money.”

Shares in AIB
He said about six months ago the Government received an approach from a sovereign wealth fund in the Gulf about buying shares in AIB, which is 99.8 per cent State owned, but it was not interested in selling.

He described the tentative offer as “an indicator that there was interest out there”.

“They said that they had half a billion available if we were interested in selling a small amount of AIB shares but we weren’t so we didn’t pursue it.”

On Thursday Mr Noonan met senior executives at pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson in Brunswick, New Jersey, and Regeneron in Tarrytown, New York, with executives from IDA Ireland.

Johnson & Johnson was exploring further investments in Ireland, he said. Regeneron, which is creating 300 jobs through a $300 million investment in the former Dell plant in Limerick, had raised the “strong possibility” of adding a further 300 jobs through a second expansion phase.