Joe Higgins wants Taoiseach called before banking inquiry

Socialist TD nominated to panel by Dáil technical group

Joe Higgins TD: said the actions of the  Government “in continuing the policy of bailout and austerity” should also be examined, along with the role played by European institutions. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Joe Higgins TD: said the actions of the Government “in continuing the policy of bailout and austerity” should also be examined, along with the role played by European institutions. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 01:05

Taoiseach Enda Kenny should be among those called before the banking inquiry, the newest member of the committee has said. Socialist TD Joe Higgins has been nominated by the technical group to replace Independent TD Stephen Donnelly, who quit the inquiry at the weekend in protest at the Government’s move to restore its majority by adding two members. The committee will meet in private for the first time tomorrow.

“I am sure that the taoiseach who was in charge of the country when the property bubble was being blown up, taoiseach Bertie Ahern, will be brought before the inquiry,” Mr Higgins said. “Taoiseach [Brian] Cowen, who presided over the initial bailout, and I also believe that Taoiseach [Enda] Kenny, who continued the bailout, should be among those who would be called.”

A Government spokesman said the selection of people to be invited to appear before the committee was a matter for the committee itself. Mr Cowen has previously confirmed he would attend such an inquiry and offer whatever assistance he could.

Mr Higgins said the actions of the present Government “in continuing the policy of bailout and austerity” should also be examined, along with the role played by European institutions. “The issue of the pressure brought to bear by the European institutions and the troika has to be elucidated. I will be looking for all secret correspondence to be published and made public.”

Mr Higgins said “establishment politicians” were in the majority on the committee. He saw it as his duty to take a place on the panel and hold to account those who were in positions of responsibility in politics, banking and construction.

However, he said he would have preferred a committee composed of “the ordinary people of the country” who had suffered as a consequence of the property crash. He criticised the Government’s efforts to secure a majority on the committee as “unbelievably crude and hamfisted”. He said the inquiry should not be limited in focus to the bank guarantee of 2008.

He was the only member of the technical group to put himself forward as a candidate for the banking inquiry when the group met yesterday afternoon. Mr Donnelly’s departure left the technical group with no representation on the committee. There was no objection to his candidacy, but different views were expressed as to the merits or otherwise of the technical group being represented on the inquiry.

Earlier, Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty robustly defended his decision to remain on the committee following Mr Donnelly’s departure.

He said the Government had done damage to the public perception of the inquiry. However, he added: “I think the public want to know and see us question the bankers, the politicians, the developers, the regulators in the public domain. I think there’s an appetite for that to happen and I want to be in the room when those questions are being asked and those questions are being answered.” He reiterated his call for the two Coalition Senators added by the Government to the committee – Labour’s Susan O’Keeffe and Michael D’Arcy of Fine Gael – to resign.

Meanwhile, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said it was incorrect to characterise the Government’s addition of two Senators on the committee as undemocratic. It was “a little bit rich” to hear such commentary, he suggested. The notion that the two representatives of the Seanad on the inquiry would come from the minority side was unacceptable, he said.