Guarantee talks ‘not ruled out’ for inquiry, says Varadkar

Banking inquiry told crucial cabinet meeting contents was off limits to its investigation

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar: Said the Government is exploring ways to make the minutes and discussions of the cabinet meeting held on the night of the bank guarantee accessible to the banking inquiry

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar: Said the Government is exploring ways to make the minutes and discussions of the cabinet meeting held on the night of the bank guarantee accessible to the banking inquiry

Mon, Jun 30, 2014, 01:01

The Government is exploring ways to make the minutes and discussions of the cabinet meeting held on the night of the bank guarantee accessible to the Oireachtas banking inquiry, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said.

The banking inquiry was last week reportedly told the contents of the incorporeal cabinet meeting of September 30th, 2008, was off limits to its investigations because of the constitutional right to cabinet confidentiality.

However, Mr Varadkar said yesterday he had not ruled out the possibility that the crucial meeting could form part of the investigation. “I am concerned that it is being suggested at the moment that they won’t be able to investigate the cabinet meeting around the guarantee and I think it would be better if the inquiry could. I am not entirely sure that they can’t,” he said.

“We did have a referendum to modify cabinet confidentiality in the Constitution so if it is at all possible I’d like them to be able to ask questions about that.”

He said that even without it, the inquiry would still have merit. “Even if they can’t ask about the meeting itself, they certainly can ask about the run-up to it and the meetings around it.”

Mr Varadkar accepted that much of this is already in the public domain. “We do know a lot of the facts already from Nyberg and Honohan and the other reports but what is really different about this inquiry and what is important about this inquiry is that it is going to be held in public,” he said.

In public

“For the first time the senior officials, the senior politicians and the senior bankers and regulator will be called in and have to account for themselves in public in front of the Irish people and I think that is what is important.” He suggested that the inquiry could have a “cathartic” effect “in terms of putting the banking collapse behind us as a nation”.

 

The committee was also last week provided with indicative costs of €5.2 million based on an 18-month investigation. This included fitting out a room in Agriculture House on Kildare Street, Dublin, for the hearings, as well as €2.9 million in staffing costs; €300,000 for financial and banking expertise and €200,000 for legal costs for counsel and solicitors.

In a statement released last Wednesday after the 11-member committee met in private for the second time, inquiry chairman Ciarán Lynch said the committee was briefed on minimising the risks of it being challenged, and on how any risks should be managed.

“There was a general desire that the inquiry would be concluded by November 2015,” Mr Lynch said.

Separately, Mr Varadkar refused to be drawn on the make- up of the Cabinet after the reshuffle. “To be blunt, the composition of the Cabinet is entirely the prerogative of the Taoiseach and I am not going to speculate.”