FF plays down significance of no Coalition whip in banking inquiry

FG TD says measure should eradicate any fears over politicisation of investigation

 Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath said “meddling” had damaged banking inquiry’s credibility. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath said “meddling” had damaged banking inquiry’s credibility. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 01:00

The significance of a Government decision not to apply the party whip to politicians on the banking inquiry committee will become clear only when the terms of reference are set, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath has said.

Mr McGrath, a member of the inquiry, said Government influence could be “exerted in very overt ways or very subtle ways”. He said he was curious to see if Coalition representatives would be willing to allow decisions taken by the Government to fall under the inquiry’s remit.

Political show trial

“If there is any attempt to have a very narrow scope on one single political decision, namely the bank guarantee, then I think that will only further fuel scepticism that this is a political show trial as opposed to a proper parliamentary inquiry,” he said, adding that “political meddling” had already damaged the inquiry’s credibility.

The decision not to enforce the whip on Fine Gael and Labour members was welcomed by Coalition members but downplayed by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin appointees.

The move came after Independent TD Stephen Donnelly resigned from the inquiry citing the Government’s move to restore its majority on the committee last week, which he said “clearly subverted the democratic process”. His resignation was described as regrettable by fellow committee members.

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy, a member of the inquiry, said the lifting of the whip should “eradicate any concerns people might have about the politicisation of the inquiry”.

He said a number of TDs had sought the whip to be relaxed when the legislation paving the way for the inquiry was debated and he felt party pressure would have been resisted in any case. Mr Murphy said he was pleased to see clarification on the matter “and let everyone know that this will be different to other committees” as members could “follow their own judgment”.

Magnanimous agreement

Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry, one of those appointed to the committee against the Government’s wishes, said the fact that “some sort of emergency conversation” took place between the Taoiseach and Tánaiste resulting in a “magnanimous agreement to withdraw the whip” was telling.

“It clearly underlines the level of dictatorial and authoritarian control they intended to have over this [inquiry],” he said.

Fine Gael Senator Michael D’Arcy, one of two Senators added to the panel to restore the Government majority, said he was very pleased the inquiry would be “different to any that has ever gone before as there will be no whip applied”.

“In my view it is the most important Oireachtas inquiry in the history of the State and my only objective is to get to a position where the people can know and understand how we got here,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty, an inquiry member, said the only way to restore credibility to the inquiry was for the late Government additions to the panel to stand down. The public would always see the move as an attempt by the Coalition to “direct the terms of reference and indeed the ultimate findings of the committee”, he said on RTÉ radio.