Oireachtas inquiry into banks would not answer questions that need to be answered
Let us not have another charade that only demonstrates our institutional weakness
“How, where and when did the property industry and the banks lobby against regulation and in favour of tax breaks, worth €8.4 billion by 2004 alone, that fuelled the construction craze?
“Why was no one prosecuted in Ireland in relation to three huge scams carried out at the IFSC: Europe’s biggest ever fraud (Parmalat), the largest bankruptcy in Australian history (HIH Insurance) and a $500 million dollar scam in the US (Cologne Re/AIG)?
“Did auditors knowingly sign off on misleading accounts for banks?
“Has there been a criminal investigation into auditing practices?
“Why, in spite of repeated findings by official inquiries and committees, and an explicit commitment by Bertie Ahern, did no government implement the recommendation of the Kenny report that the price of building land be controlled – an act that would in itself have prevented the worst excesses of the property craze?
“What did the European Central Bank, guardian of the stability of the euro, do when it was told that bank lending in Ireland for construction and property development had increased by 1,730 per cent between 1999 and 2007, an average increase of 18 per cent a month? Did it notice that, between the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2008, net indebtedness of Irish banks to the rest of the world had increased from 10 per cent of GDP to 60 per cent of GDP?
“Why, in 2006, did the IMF give a glowing report on both the regulatory regime in Ireland and the health of the Irish banks, a report that was used to dismiss warnings of impending doom?
“What, in detail, was the role of the ECB in insisting that Anglo and Irish Nationwide be given unconditional guarantees for all liabilities?
“Was the bank guarantee decided, as the Constitution requires, by a proper meeting of the Cabinet?
Let’s get serious
Real answers to these questions would matter because they would force Ireland to confront the failure of its political, legal and business systems and force the IMF and ECB to look at their own responsibilities. But a limited and politicised inquiry has no chance of getting these answers. If we’re serious, we need a constitutional referendum to establish an international inquiry with sweeping powers to delve into everything, including the political parties, the lobbying apparatus and the legal system. If we’re not serious, let’s spare ourselves the embarrassment of another demonstration of the weakness of our public institutions.