Government accused of ‘skulduggery’ over banking committee
Labour whip forced to withdraw claim that selection committee was ‘ambushed’
There were stormy scenes in the Seanad in the wake of the Government’s decision to add two extra Government Senators to the banking inquiry committee to ensure it has a majority.
Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy and Labour Senator Susan O’Keeffe are named in this morning’s Seanad order paper, meaning the committee’s membership will now increase from nine to 11 and restore the Government majority.
Fianna Fáil’s Paschal Mooney accused the Government of skulduggery and of completely undermining the inquiry and the democratic process by the move and said the move overturned the Government’s pledge for democratic reform.
Party colleague Denis O’Donovan described it as “political engineering of the most cynical form”.
The Opposition erupted when Labour Seanad leader Ivana Bacik claimed the committee of selection was “ambushed”, a remark she withdrew after Mr Mooney expressed outrage.
Ms Bacik said the additional nominees were a positive development because the Seanad would now have four Senators on the 11-member committee and she also welcomed the fact that there would now be a woman on the committee.
She criticised the Dáil for picking an all male line-up.
Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane accused the Government of “gerrymandering the banking inquiry”.
The move to add Ms O’Keeffe and Mr D’Arcy follows the decision by the Seanad’s committee of selection to pick Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry and Independent Sean Barrett.
The Government had expected to have a majority on the committee but just one of three Labour senators on the committee attended the meeting and members voted for two Opposition senators.
Mr Barrett said the move “must be music to the ears of the bankers. It could have done the job but it’s been held up to ridicule by the kind of speech made by Senator Bacik.”
He said Britain’s chancellor was calling for tougher sanctions but the Government took its eye off the ball to have personal row over whether it was Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael was on the committee.
He added that the banks have been putting pressure on the Taoiseach and the Government side “have done the State no service”.
Mr Cullinane said the move was an “absolute disgrace” and Government senators should hold their heads in shame.
He claimed Taoiseach Enda Kenny was pulling the strings and it was about the Taoiseach gerrymandering the committee.
But Labour’s Aideen Hayden dismissed his comments and said the committee’s job was to establish the terms of reference for the banking inquiry, not the inquiry itself.
She reminded the House that the committee might not even be the committee to conduct the inquiry, that the finance committee might actually do so.
Fianna Fail’s Averil Power said it was an “absolute farce”. She said the Government’s move was about the “narrow petty political interests of Fine Gael and Labour ahead of the next generation”.