Deadline for inquiry into write down of loans at former Anglo Irish Bank extended

Cregan inquiry expected to cost in excess of €30 million

The inquiry which is investigating the write down of loans at the former Anglo Irish Bank has had its deadline for completion extended again.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had wanted the commission of investigation chaired by Mr Justice Brian Cregan to finish by the end of last month.

His spokesman, however, said this has now been postponed until the end of next month “at least”.

The commission was established by then taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2015 to investigate all disposals, by IBRC – the former Anglo Irish Bank – that resulted in a capital losses to the State-owned bank.

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It initially faced a deadline of December 31st, 2015 to complete its work. Mr Varadkar said it is expected to cost in excess of €30 million.

Mr Varadkar met opposition politicians before Christmas as he considered the inquiry’s request to extend its deadline by another 15 months. He was said to be considering scrapping the inquiry altogether, but eventually decided to grant the commission a reprieve.

He ultimately asked Mr Justice Cregan to submit a further interim report by the end of this month, detailing interim findings or conclusions, options to reduce the timeframe or cost of the inquiry, and its best estimates of the final costs of the first module, which is focused on the sale of Siteserv.

Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said the commission’s sixth interim report “has been received”.

“It’s a progress report on the Commission’s work and cost projections. There are no interim findings. The Taoiseach is consulting with the Attorney General. Once that consultation is complete he intends to publish the report in full.

“He also intends to consult with opposition party leaders on the next steps. In the meantime the Taoiseach has extended the Commission’s timeframe until at least end-May 2019.”

The Siteserv element of the inquiry has hit several speed bumps in recent months. It made a decision to invite Catherine Murphy, the co-leader of the Social Democrats, to give evidence. However, she later snubbed the inquiry amid concerns over the manner in which she would be cross-examined, and whether she would be asked to identify the sources of information about Mr O’Brien’s banking affairs which she read into the Dáil record in 2015.

Elsewhere, Island Capital Management, which is linked to Denis O'Brien, has launched a high court action against the commission. Island is challenging a ruling by the commission on the treatment of certain documents, claiming it erred in law and breached its rights in finding that the Commission of Investigations Act permits him to retain documents over which Island has claimed privilege, and to review those documents on an ongoing basis as the commission proceeds with a view to examining and re-examining the claim of privilege.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times