Enda and Micheál clash over banking inquiry committee

Dáil Sketch: Was the Taoiseach trying to dictate an Oireachtas inquiry’s terms of reference?

Micheál Martin: Had a mini-meltdown over banking inquiry committee

Micheál Martin: Had a mini-meltdown over banking inquiry committee

Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 01:01

When is an independent, non-partisan committee not a committee?

When the Government doesn’t like it.

During Leaders’ Questions yesterday, Micheál Martin decided not to return to the subject of the Oireachtas Committee on Embarrassing Fianna Fáil over the Banking Crisis.

He had a mini-meltdown in the chamber on Tuesday evening when Enda Kenny explained that the launch of this long-heralded inquiry has had to be postponed because the Government doesn’t have a voting majority on it.

He helpfully added that this meant he might not be able to get the terms of reference agreed as there was no knowing what the two Fianna Fáil members might do in this regard.

TMI there, Enda, as the young people might say. Or Too Much Information, as some of his wincing Coalition colleagues said afterwards.

Micheál (no stranger to his own party’s majority manoeuvrings on the make-up on important committees when it was in power) was outraged at what he was hearing.

Was the Taoiseach trying to dictate an Oireachtas inquiry’s terms of reference?

Whereupon independent TD Stephen Donnelly, bless his innocence, pointed out “the committee’s terms of reference are not the business of the Executive.”

Oh, but the cat is out of the bag now, fumed the Fianna Fáil leader.

And that same poor cat was running around Leinster House yesterday doing a great impression of a headless chicken as the Coalition scrambled to find a way to reimpose its authority in the banking inquiry.

All this because they made a mess of organising a Seanad selection committee vote, which saw two Opposition Senators chosen to represent the Upper House at the inquiry, thus depriving Enda of his planned majority on the team of nine Oireachtas members.

This procedural clanger happened last week, but Enda and his embarrassed colleagues are refusing to take their beating, with mutterings about a “conflict of interest” which may render Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry (the surprise beneficiary of the Government’s ineptitude) unsuitable to take part in the hearings.

As the day wore on, TDs and Senators scrutinised the selection rules for possible loopholes in the process.

On one side, Fianna Fáil was claiming that attempts to overturn the result of a fair vote would be an unprecedented move for the Oireachtas and an outrageous case of political interference.

The Coalition corner got busy though quoting sub-sections and clauses in the rele- vant legislation and standing orders which could cast doubt on the appointments.

However, a meeting of the Seanad Committee on Procedures and Privilege last night decided that they couldn’t remove MacSharry from the inquiry.

Now, the ball is in the Government’s court. It could increase the number of members involved and get its majority, if it wants it enough to ignore the embarrassing message this would send.

Obviously, outside of Leinster House, nobody really cares about this unseemly squabble. Particularly with the World Cup starting today.