Dáil mechanism must be found to release Anglo trial report – TD
Fianna Fáil deputy calls failure to publish report ‘an outrageous affront’ to democracy
Billy Kelleher (above) said Dáil had to find a mechanism to provide Ian Drennan with ‘some form of immunity’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Billy Kelleher was responding to the decision of the State’s corporate watchdog to rescind the offer to give the 415-page report to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation because the committee could not provide him with protection against potential legal actions from people named in it.
The decision of the Director of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan not to provide the committee with the report, which sets out the factors that led to Mr FitzPatrick’s acquittal in 2017, potentially deprives the public of ever seeing the full account of why the high-profile trial collapsed and how the investigation was botched.
Mr Kelleher said it was “an outrageous affront to parliamentary democracy that we cannot see a report into why one of the longest criminal trials in the history of the State collapsed, the failures of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and other public bodies and administrative bodies as well”.
The Cork North-Central TD said the Dáil had to find a mechanism to provide Mr Drennan with “some form of immunity”.
If this could not be done through the parliamentary or committee system, then TDs and Senators had to be “creative and imaginative” in finding a way to publish the report to protect the director, he said.
He said the committee would meet next week to consider whether there is a mechanism available.
“If not, it is incumbent on the parliament itself and the Government to see if they can seek to find a mechanism to bring the report into the Dáil to give it some form of immunity within the Dáil process so that the author of the report isn’t opened to legal challenge,” he said.
This was essential, he said, to see how the “administration and investigation of justice in the corporate governance of this country is run or how it was badly run, and to learn from those mistakes”.
Following protracted correspondence with the committee, Mr Drennan wrote to its chairwoman, Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler, last Friday withdrawing the offer of the report on the basis that the committee could not give the legal protections he sought against “litigation risk and associated financial exposure”.
Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted of furnishing false information to Anglo’s auditors following a lengthy retrial after a judge found that the ODCE’s investigation coached witnesses and contaminated evidence.
An earlier trial collapsed after it emerged that the watchdog’s legal adviser Kevin O’Connell, the lead investigator, admitted shredding relevant documents in the case in a moment of panic.
Despite the ODCE’s failings in the investigation, Mr Drennan said the factors contributing to the trial’s collapse extend “well beyond” the failures within his office.
He told the committee in February that if and when the full story of what happened came out, it would put “a different complexion” on the “narrative in the public domain.”