FF’s McGrath says Coalition trying to control banking inquiry

Nine members of committee nominated

Fianna Fail spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath has said the argument over which politicians should be represented on the banking inquiry should end and the long-awaited investigation should proceed. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fail spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath has said the argument over which politicians should be represented on the banking inquiry should end and the long-awaited investigation should proceed. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 12:51

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath has accused the Government of trying to control the banking inquiry “lock, stock and barrel”.

He said the argument over which politicians should be represented on the inquiry should end and the long-awaited investigation should proceed.

“We are calling on the wiser heads in Government to prevail on this issue. This issue is closed. The nine members of the committee have now been validly nominated and we want the inquiry to get under way as quickly as possible without any further delay,” Mr McGrath said.

The Government planned to have a majority on the committee, but the surprise election of Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry instead of the Coalition’s preferred candidate Susan O’Keeffe of Labour means the nine-member inquiry will only have four Government members.

The Government had been expected to attempt to overturn the result. However, Mr McGrath said the only way the Government could now secure a majority on the committee was if it sought to “set aside decades of practice and convention and bring a motion to the Seanad to seek to overrule and overturn” the decision of the Seanad selection committee.

“In our view that would be a very serious development. It would certainly represent a power grab on the part of this Government and it would raise the question once again as to why the Government is so determined to control this banking inquiry lock, stock and barrel.”

The four Government members selected are chairman and Labour TD Ciarán Lynch and Fine Gael TDs Eoghan Murphy, Kieran O’Donnell and John Paul Phelan.

When it came to the selection of Senators, it is understood Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s office instructed Coalition members to support Independent Senator Seán Barrett and Ms O’Keeffe.

Mr Barrett was selected unanimously, while Mr MacSharry was accepted by five votes to three. Ms O’Keeffe, who was not present, was rejected by four votes to three.

As well as Mr Barrett and Mr MacSharry, the Opposition will be represented by Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath, Sinn Féin deputy Pearse Doherty and Independent TD Stephen Donnelly.

Ms O’Keeffe responded angrily to negative reaction she said she received following her non-attendance at the meeting which left the Government without a majority on the inquiry. Others expected to support her were also not present last Wednesday night.

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins said she was on a break following the European election campaign, which she contested unsuccessfully, and had been granted a pair by the whip.

Under pairing arrangements, a Senator from one party agrees with a Senator of an opposing party not to vote in a particular division, giving both Senators the opportunity to be elsewhere.

However, such substitutions are not permissible under the rules of the committee.