Time to call a halt to the Siteserv inquiry?

Commission has, in theory, 37 deals left to consider

Mr Justice Brian Cregan’s draft findings on the Siteserv affair raise questions about what happens to the other deals his commission of inquiry was supposed to examine.

Siteserv was but the first of 38 separate transactions that were in focus when the inquiry was established in June 2015 in the heat of political controversy. Those deals involved an aggregate €1.88 billion write-off from the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

But after seven long years of investigation into Siteserv’s sale to Denis O’Brien, there is zero appetite in political circles for the commission to go on and on and on. If each individual deal took as long as Siteserv to examine, the commission would cover less than half of them even if it sat for the rest of the century.

That is simply not going to happen. With the multimillion-euro meter already running for years, it is difficult to imagine anything other than a shutdown once the Siteserv work finally reaches its conclusion.

But money and time aside, what would be the basis for closing off an inquiry into the other deals?

Stand back from the judge’s draft Siteserv findings and the path appears to be clear enough. In draft final conclusions still subject to change, the central focus of criticism is on the side of Siteserv as borrower and not IBRC as lender. Of the bank’s performance, the judge says: “[I]n an overall assessment, the commission concludes that bank executives worked honestly and diligently throughout the Siteserv transaction to protect the interests of the bank.”

Would it be any surprise if that became a key strand of the political justification for bringing the commission to a halt after Siteserv?