DPP intervened to say inquiry could compromise Anglo trials
Government told investigation could interfere with three criminal trials
The need for steps to prevent the banking inquiry from compromising three criminal trials came to the fore of the Government’s deliberations after an intervention from the DPP, it has emerged.
Citing court proceedings next year against former Anglo Irish Bank executives, DPP Claire Loftus is understood to have made contact with the Government in the run-up to its decision on Wednesday to give the go-ahead for a parliamentary inquiry.
Ms Loftus is said to have “let it be known” that Ministers “should be aware of the potential to jeopardise the trials” when giving the go-ahead for the inquiry.
Her observations are said to have concentrated minds in the Cabinet as to the need to prevent the inquiry from compromising the trials of former bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick, former finance director Willie McAteer and former chief of the bank’s Irish unit, Pat Whelan.
Senior Government figures now want the forthcoming inquiry to postpone its examination of the Anglo debacle until after the trials.
An official in the DPP’s office declined yesterday to make any comment when asked about her contact with the Government. In the normal course, such contact would be made via the office of the Attorney General.
The inquiry will be a creature of the Oireachtas, so it falls to TDs and Senators in the first instance to lay down the scope and timing of its work. However, the Government’s large Dáil majority gives it the power to set the agenda.
In Co Wexford yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed confidence that the Oireachtas would be able to conduct the inquiry without interfering with the trials.
“I think that we often-times run down our own capacity to do a job professionally and to do a job well. Nobody wants more tribunals. We’ve had them running for years at grossly excessive cost,” Mr Kenny said.
He added that the courts were “completely separate” from the executive. At the same time, he said that politicians who had made “very strong” comment about the banks in the past may not be allowed to participate.
In addition, there is concern in Government circles to ensure that participating parliamentarians are not in any way compromised by their own personal dealings with banks.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore expressed confidence that the inquiry could run parallel with court actions but said it was obvious that care would have to be taken so it would not in any way interfere with the legal process.
The Oireachtas finance committee will discuss whether it will seek to conduct the inquiry at a meeting next Wednesday.
Independent TD Stephen Donnelly, a member of the committee, said the body was too large to conduct the inquiry.
“I think it would be a huge mistake for the committee, there are 27 members,” he said.