Einstein’s words fail to square with reality for Enda

In his handling of the banking inquiry the Taoiseach doesn’t seem to have learned from the past

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “I recalled the words of Einstein in context of our commitment to honour trust.” Picture Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “I recalled the words of Einstein in context of our commitment to honour trust.” Picture Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Sat, Jun 14, 2014, 01:00

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

That’s Enda in the Dáil last month, quoting Einstein, no less, as he moved the motion to establish the Joint Oireachtas Committee into the banking crisis.

“As I was preparing this statement I recalled the words of Albert Einstein, quoted in the Programme for Government, in the context of the Government’s commitment to honour the trust vested in it by the people,” he told the House.

“I believe these words are apt as we begin the process of establishing all the facts in relation to the banking crisis so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. I am confident that the all party Oireachtas Committee proposed will prove an appropriate and effective means of achieving this objective.”

What the Taoiseach omitted to say was that this would only prove appropriate if his Government had control of the committee.

When it comes to being political about committees, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste could give FF’s John McGuinness a good run for his money.

Omitted words

In his speech, Enda decreed, “the joint committee shall consider the appropriate scope and terms of reference for any such inquiry to be conducted” but he omitted a crucial line: “Once we have decided what they will be.”

Outlining the legal niceties, he said: “It is intended that the joint committee will have seven members – seven from the Dáil and two from the Seanad.” But he omitted to say the number could be increased to ensure his Government appointees have control.

Furthermore, he stressed that “to be effective, the inquiry should have very clear terms of reference”.

He omitted to say, however, that to be effective, the terms would have to be quietly approved in advance by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

Not that Enda is interfering in any way. As he told the Dáil: “While the terms of reference of the inquiry is a matter for the members of the Oireachtas Committee to consider and for the Oireachtas to approve, I believe that the inquiry should focus on issues surrounding the banking collapse that have never been fully explored and establish the facts.” He omitted to say this should include fully exploring Fianna Fáil’s role in the whole collapse.

The Taoiseach welcomed this all-party committee. “The Oireachtas Committee system has been reformed in recent years and the committees have a proven track record of working on a cross-party basis, including investigations and the new pre-legislative scrutiny arrangements.”

But he omitted to say the opposition can’t be trusted to conduct themselves in the appropriate manner in an important inquiry like this if they hold the majority.

To be fair, nobody would have known about those omissions if LabourSenators hadn’t messed up on the vote to select the government’s Seanad choices.

It’s been a terrible week for Enda on the banking-inquiry front. And a shocking one for Eamon Gilmore, who told the Dáil that Fianna Fáil pulled a “stroke” by getting their Senator onto the committee.

But it was “nothing of the kind” fumed Senator David Norris yesterday. He should know; it was his casting vote which saw Marc MacSharry join the inquiry team.

‘Kick up the bum’

Norris issued a statement from his hospital bed explaining why he voted for MacSharry over Labour’s Susan O’Keefe, the Coalition choice.

He did so “precisely to ensure that the Government parties would be in a minority, thereby securing a truly independent inquiry and obviating the possibility of playing party politics”.

At the meeting, he signalled his intention in no uncertain terms by theatrically declaring before he voted: “Now! I’m going to give the Government a kick up the bum!”

In his missive from St Vincent’s, Norris, who is being treated for cancer, thundered that the Taoiseach “rammed an additional two Government nominees though the Senate in defiance of the democratically expressed wish of the committee”.

But he gave a back-handed note of praise for the maligned Seanad. At least the Upper House had “shown its relevance by revealing to the Irish public the chicanery at the heart of national politics”.

So in this week’s test, it’s only a two out of three for Enda and Einstein.

Living for today, hoping for the future but not, it seems, learning from the past.

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