Oireachtas committee ‘best placed’ to conduct banks inquiry

Independent TD Shane Ross disagrees with committee chair, saying inquiry would be a ‘fiasco’

 Independent TD  Shane Ross: warned the banking inquiry could turn into a ‘fiasco’. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Independent TD Shane Ross: warned the banking inquiry could turn into a ‘fiasco’. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 12:35

The chairman of the Oireachtas Finance Committee Ciaran Lynch has said that body is best placed to conduct the inquiry into the bank bailout, which was approved by the Government yesterday.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the inquiry should focus on the 2008 bank guarantee and events leading up to it, the role of banks and auditors, and the role of State institutions.

Mr Lynch said the legislation brought forward by Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin would facilitate a “broad scope” investigation.

The committee would have powers of compellability, he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today.

It would have legal sanction if people were found to be engaging in a “belligerent” manner with the investigation and it would have power to remove TDs who may be behaving in a manner that would undermine it.

Fine Gael and Labour are understood to favour having the inquiry carried out by a “subcommittee” of the finance committee. The emerging view is that the group in question should be particularly small, with perhaps no more than four senior parliamentarians presiding over the inquiry.

Independent TD Shane Ross argue this morning the finance committee was not an appropriate body to conduct the inquiry.

Also speaking on Morning Ireland, Mr Ross said the notion the inquiry might go ahead without input from the former Anglo Irish Bank, as reported in today’s Irish Times, was “frankly ridiculous”.

Anglo’s footprints were all over the period leading up to the bank guarantee, he said. “Anglo is as responsible as anyone and any bank for this disaster and Anglo will have to be interviewed and people from Anglo will have to be interviewed.”

He said an inquiry carried out by the Oireachtas committee would take at least two years. “The important thing now is that we do have an inquiry. I agree about that. We have got to find out what happened,” he said.

However, he warned TDs would “grandstand” and turn the inquiry into a farce.

Fine Gael and Labour TDs or senators, faced with former taoisigh Bertie Ahern or Brian Cowen or others in front of them, would be competing with each other day and night to score political points, Mr Ross added. “This is going to be a fiasco.”

Mr Ross said that as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, if the inquiry came before that body he “could not possibly” present himself as someone who was impartial because he had written a book about the matters and had said things that were “utterly prejudicial” about the bankers.

He also warned “virtually everyone” in the Dáil had said things which might be considered prejudicial to the trials of former Anglo chairman Seán FitzPatrick, former finance director Willie McAteer and former leader of the bank’s business in Ireland Pat Whelan, which are due to begin in January.