Banking inquiry members object to timeline for hearings

Meeting in Leinster House hears investigation may have public hearings as late as June 2015

Ciaran Lynch of Labour, who is chairing the banking inquiry. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Ciaran Lynch of Labour, who is chairing the banking inquiry. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thu, Jun 19, 2014, 19:21

TDs and Senators on the banking inquiry objected to the prospect of public hearings being held as late as May or June 2015 at the committee’s inaugural meeting in Leinster House yesterday.

The 11 members were given a draft timeline proposed by committee staff which suggested the inquiry’s final report could be completed by October or November next year.

This scenario was rejected by a number of Opposition members of the committee.

The committee was also given detailed legal advice, chairman Ciarán Lynch of Labour confirmed.

“Today, we received a clear and detailed picture of the legal context in which the inquiry will take place and the committee agreed in principle to seek the services of legal or banking expertise where it may be required throughout the process,” he said.

Mr Lynch said members “took stock” of the legal and procedural framework within which they will have to operate.

The committee was warned that it could not make any findings that would adversely affect an individual’s reputation, as per the so-called Abbeylara judgement.

Members were also cautioned that they had to be careful and factual in their questoning of witnesses, and their questions could not contain damaging implications.

Further information on how the issue of Cabinet confidentiality might impact on the committee’s work was sought and is expected to be delivered when the committee meets again next Wednesday morning.

The potential impact of a general election on the inquiry was discussed, and the prospect of completing a series of interim reports was floated.

In the event of the Government not completing its full term, this would allow a new committee to take up where the original had left off.

The committee has been tasked with preparing a detailed proposal for the banking inquiry.

Mr Lynch also confirmed that next week’s meeting would involve a “substantive” discussion on the scope of the inquiry, the timeline for the preparation of the proposal and also for the completion of the inquiry.

The “risks to the inquiry and how these will be managed” will also be on the agenda, he said.

Mr Lynch said there was agreement that the inquiry “should be capable of completion within a realistic timeframe”.

Members also agreed it should be cost-effective.

The administrative and logistical supports which will be available to the committee were outlined, and members were advised on how best to deal with public and media interest in their work.

The committee also agreed to establish a support working group of public servants from key with knowledge and expertise in relation to the banking sector.

The working group is expected to report regularly to the committee and provide its final advice in early September.

The Government representatives on the committee are Mr Lynch and three Fine Gael TDs: Eoghan Murphy, Kieran O’Donnell and John Paul Phelan.

Labour Senator Susan O’Keeffe and Senator Michael D’Arcy of Fine Gael were added to the inquiry after the Government failed to secure a majority.

The Opposition is represented by Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath and Sinn Féin deputy Pearse Doherty.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins replaced Independent Stephen Donnelly, who announced he was quitting the inquiry at the weekend.

Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry and Independent Senator Sean Barrett are also members.