Bank inquiry to 'compel' witnesses

 

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recommended a banking inquiry that would compel politicians, bankers and civil servants present on the night of the bank guarantee to give evidence.

PAC chairman John McGuinness of Fianna Fáil said legal restrictions placed on the Oireachtas meant findings of fact or culpability could not be made.

However, the causes of the collapse and the steps that should have been taken to prevent the crisis would be discussed.

“This will give an opportunity to key players, whether they be bankers, politicians or public servants to outline their role and to highlight what they did and where necessary to be challenged on what they did or failed to do in dealing with the collapse of our domestic banking sector,” Mr McGuinness said.

He said a PAC inquiry, if sanctioned by Government, would require access to documents “that could be caught by the concept of cabinet confidentiality”.

He said legislation should be amended to remove certain meetings from the protection of Cabinet confidentiality.

Mr McGuinness said the inquiry would have to be given “compellability powers from the off”, so individuals who did not respond to requests to appear would be compelled to give evidence.

“Many of the key players in these organisations have since retired or moved on. Clearly they must be given an opportunity to give evidence on how they managed the crisis, how the systems failed,” he said.

He said the role of the inquiry would be to “follow the money”, given that €64 billion was put into the banks.

A preliminary analysis and a framework for a banking inquiry was released, which Mr McGuinness said was the culmination of six month’s work.

He said the inquiry should “avoid a number of pitfalls”, including: dragging out for years; costing a “small fortune” and getting “bogged down” in legal battles.

Committee member Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin said “the ball will be at the foot of the Government” in terms of getting the inquiry started.