Siteserv inquiry seeks to compel Catherine Murphy to appear over deal claims
Politician to resist efforts to reveal source of details behind Dáil statements on O’Brien
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy is believed to be considering a range of possibilities and seeking advice on her options in relation to the commission of inquiry. Photograph: Alan Betson
The Government-appointed commission investigating the sale of building services firm Siteserv to a Denis O’Brien-owned company has directed the politician who first questioned the deal to appear before it.
The commission of inquiry headed by Mr Justice Brian Cregan is seeking to compel Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy to testify about statements she made in the Dáil in 2015 regarding the transaction.
The investigation, which was established almost four years ago and is expected to cost more than €30 million, is investigating the sale of Siteserv, now called Actavo, to Mr O’Brien’s company Millington in 2012.
The Isle of Man firm purchased the construction-related company for €45 million after the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, gave Siteserv a loan write-down of €110 million.
The sale attracted controversy because shareholders in Siteserv were paid €5 million despite the State-owned lender suffering a loss on the company and because another bidder took issue with the transaction.
Ms Murphy made statements in the Dáil in April 2015 raising concerns about the purchase. She called for a full independent inquiry into the 2012 deal and a number of IBRC transactions, leading the then taoiseach Enda Kenny to establish the commission of inquiry two months later.
Mr Kenny’s government asked Mr Justice Cregan, a High Court judge and the commission’s sole member, to investigate transactions involving IBRC that resulted in losses of 10 million or more to the State. However, the terms of the commission were changed a year later to focus initially on the 2012 Siteserv sale.
Neither the commission nor Ms Murphy would comment on the TD’s potential appearance before the inquiry, which is taking evidence from various parties connected to the transaction in private.
The Kildare North TD had been invited to appear before the commission in February and four days were set aside for her appearance that month, but she has not yet given evidence. The politician is believed to be considering a range of possibilities and seeking advice on her options.
She is said to be intent on resisting any attempts to compel her to reveal the source of the information behind her Dáil statements about Mr O’Brien’s banking affairs and the concerns she raised about the Siteserv transaction.
The commission has sought a series of extensions to complete its work having initially faced a deadline of December 31st, 2015. Mr Justice Cregan had sought an extension until the end of next March. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar extended its timeframe until at least the end of this month.
Mr Varadkar, who put the €30 million-plus estimate on the potential cost of the investigation, had wanted the commission to complete its work by the end of March but then granted it a further two months.
A large number of lawyers are involved in the commission and representing the various financial advisory firms and parties who worked on the Siteserv transaction.
Ms Murphy has previously criticised the work of the commission for taking a “highly legalistic approach” and saying that it was following a format that was “akin to a tribunal of inquiry rather than a private investigation”.