Rabbitte defends bank inquiry concerns

Tue, Jul 10, 2012, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Communications Pat Rabbitte has been accused by Fianna Fáil of “playing partisan politics” with the Public Accounts Committee after he questioned if its chairman, John McGuinness, was the right person to lead an investigation into the banks.

Mr Rabbitte yesterday stood over his weekend remarks that he would have concerns about a former Fianna Fáil minister conducting an inquiry into the banks.

He also said Mr McGuinness seemed to have already concluded that the fault lay with the Civil Service before the inquiry had even begun. This was a reference to a claim by Mr McGuinness in a Sunday newspaper that a cabal of senior civil servants were trying to “nobble” an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) into the 2008 banking crisis.

Yesterday, as the row escalated, Mr McGuinness, his Fianna Fáil colleague Dara Calleary and the party’s spokesman accused Mr Rabbitte of playing party politics.

“It is beneath Mr Rabbitte to try and drag the PAC into the party political arena for some irrelevant turf war,” said Mr Calleary.

The party spokesman said Mr Rabbitte was “unable to approach a single debate without dragging it into petty party politics”.

Mr McGuinness said the committee had spent six months working on its scoping report and it had won support across the political divide. “If he thinks I am the wrong person, why did he and his party support my nomination as chairman of PAC? Why did he sit with me on the PAC and work on a report with me? Why raise this now when this very important report is in the public domain?”

Mr McGuinness said he had no intention of standing down.

Mr Rabbitte said he had made no intervention but had responded on radio to an article by Mr McGuinness in which he had made political points. “[Mr McGuinness] said there was a plot in the higher echelons of the Civil Service to nobble this inquiry . . . It led me to the conclusion that one has to be very careful as chairman that you are not seen to make findings before the findings happen.”

Turning to the comment that drew the most ire from Fianna Fáil, he said: “I do believe that very many people would have concerns about a former Fianna Fáil minister conducting the inquiry.”

Fine Gael committee member John Deasy TD said if Labour had a problem with Mr McGuinness, the party should not have supported him as chair. He said Mr McGuinness was independent in fulfilling his role.