Taoiseach insists banking inquiry will be independent
Noonan says Government reversing Fianna Fáil’s ‘stroke’ on make-up of committee
Taoiseach Enda Kenny reviews guards at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, today. Photograph: Wael Hamzeh/EPA
The banking inquiry will be completely independent of the Cabinet and will not operate under Government instruction, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
Speaking in Lebanon today, where he is visiting Irish peacekeeping troops, Mr Kenny also said Independent TD Stephen Donnelly should reconsider his decision to resign from the inquiry, adding that the Wicklow TD had a “lot to offer”.
As the row continued over the Government move to add Labour and Fine Gael senators to the committee, which prompted Mr Donnelly’s resignation, Mr Kenny said the inquiry “does not operate to a mandate or direction or instruction from Government”.
Analysis: Mary Minihan on the banking inquiry
The Government yesterday announced that the party whip would not apply to any Fine Gael or Labour member of the committee.
“Fine Gael members who attend on the committee have absolute freedom in the context of working with the committee as to what they want to do,” Mr Kenny said today.
Mr Donnelly this evening said he had heard nothing to make him change his mind about withdrawing from the committee. He said public trust in the process was crucial and that this had been “destroyed” by the Taoiseach’s intervention last week.
“Nobody I have spoken to believes [the committee]will be able to do its work in an unbiased, non-political way,” he told The Irish Times. “The two senators forced on to the inquiry should step down… There’s no point to the work if the public think it’s a political exercise.”
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan earlier defended the Government’s handling of the inquiry, saying a “stroke” pulled in getting Opposition senators on to the panel and had been reversed by the addition of Coalition members.
“Fianna Fáil pulled a stroke because Labour Senators were absent and fair dues to them. The stroke is now being reversed,” he said.
Senior Fine Gael and Labour members today criticised Fianna Fáil’s approach to the inquiry. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the party appeared to be seeking to halt the inquiry, an allegation rejected by Fianna Fáil members.
Mr Gilmore said he believed some people had “an interest in making sure that there isn’t a banking inquiry” and he believed “first to the table on that” is Fianna Fáil. “They don’t want a banking inquiry at all,” he told reporters in Dublin.
He was responding to a suggestion from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said that the public was losing confidence in the investigation.
Fianna Fáil finance spokesman and inquiry member Michael McGrath TD rejected Mr Gilmore’s assertion, describing it as “a political claim”. He accused the Government of “trying to dig itself out of a hole it has created in relation to the inquiry” through “political meddling” which he feared had damaged the credibility of the entire process.
Mr McGrath said Fianna Fáil had made it clear it would fully co-operate with the inquiry even though it did not believe it was the best approach to the issue as it would be unable to make findings against individuals or organisations involved in the State’s banking collapse.
“The Government now is trying to throw as much mud as it can in the hope it will stick whereas in truth the damage to the inquiry was caused directly by its own action,” he told The Irish Times.