Banking inquiry could provide answers the public ‘need and deserve’ says Brendan Howlin
Legislation paving way for hearings into financial collapse came into effect yesterday
Brendan Howlin said the terms of the inquiry should be ‘narrow and specific’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times
An Oireachtas banking inquiry could provide long-awaited answers for the public “who need and deserve” to hear the views of those who witnessed the State’s financial collapse, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has said.
Legislation paving the way for such an inquiry came into effect yesterday and Mr Howlin said he was confident parliamentarians could “rise to this challenge and conduct inquiries that provide vital answers to fundamentally important questions”.
“Used effectively, I believe that an inquiry constituted in this manner will facilitate the unfolding of the full narrative of events surrounding the near collapse of the banking system and the events leading up to and including the decision on the bank guarantee,” he said in a speech to the Seanad on Tuesday night on the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013.
Mr Howlin said a parliamentary banking inquiry “has the potential to provide long-awaited answers for the Irish people who need and deserve to hear an account from those directly involved”.
The inquiry will be held under guidelines which are being set out by Oireachtas staff and Mr Howlin said it was crucial that the terms of reference for the inquiry “are narrow and specific”.
The legislation says any inquiry must be completed within the lifetime of the current Dáil and Seanad, which are expected to run until March of 2016.
The bank guarantee and events leading up to it is first on the list of Government priorities for the inquiry. Second is the role of the banks and their auditors. Third is the role of State institutions.
Discussion of the State’s most infamous lender – Anglo Irish Bank – will not take place until criminal trials relating to three former executives are completed.
‘Fair and balanced’
A “disciplined” approach would be required to ensure that when they did take place inquiries were “fair, balanced and effective”, added Mr Howlin. “Now that the Act is in place there is a strong onus placed on us as parliamentarians to use this legislation well and in a manner which is focused on furthering the public interest.”
Mr Howlin said conducting a parliamentary inquiry into the circumstances of the bank collapse was the best way forward as “no other possible models have been successful at meeting the public demand for a full account of this issue”.
He said a tribunal of inquiry would not be a desirable approach given its potential to be a significant drain on resources and time and that he believed a Leveson-style inquiry would “most likely be an excessively costly and lengthy process”.