Bank crash inquiry to call Brian Cowen and Pat Neary

Oireachtas hearings are unlikely to happen before early next year

Mr John Hurley, former governor, Central Bank of Ireland, is to be called by inquiry.

Mr John Hurley, former governor, Central Bank of Ireland, is to be called by inquiry.


Former taoiseach Brian Cowen and former financial regulator Pat Neary will be called before the Oireachtas inquiry into the banking crash after the Government gave the go-ahead for the investigation.

Although public hearings into the 2008 banking guarantee are not now expected to be held until early next year, the inquiry will also seek to hear from former Central Bank governor John Hurley and top-ranked figures from the main banks.

These include former Allied Irish Banks chief Eugene Sheehy and its then chairman Dermot Gleeson, and former Bank of Ireland chief Brian Goggin and its then governor Richard Burrows. Each was involved in talks with the then government around the time of the guarantee. Senior civil servants from the Department of Finance will also be called, as will figures from investment banks Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, who advised the department in the period leading up to the guarantee and its aftermath.

In addition to Mr Cowen, other political figures from his government are likely to be called.

New powers
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said yesterday they will propose Labour TD Ciarán Lynch to chair the inquiry, whose powers under new legislation to compel witnesses to attend are akin to those of the High Court.

“The Government parties hope that a motion to establish the inquiry will be before the Oireachtas next Tuesday,” said a note from Mr Kenny’s office .

Moves to quickly establish the inquiry follow the conclusion of the first Anglo trial, which cast fresh light on serious failings at the regulator under Mr Neary’s watch .

Judge Martin Nolan said he could not send former Anglo directors Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer to prison given that the regulator gave the green light to the illegal share-buying scheme for which they were convicted by a jury last week.

Terms of reference
The Oireachtas inquiry was delayed for months while the trial continued but considerable preparatory work was undertaken behind the scenes.

It is anticipated that terms of reference will be settled in coming weeks before any detailed background examination is carried out. This is expected to continue until the end of this year.

Public hearing are anticipated to begin around January next, with the intention of bringing the inquiry to a conclusion the following summer.

“This is a very, very challenging piece of work, but a necessary one. The events leading up to the guarantee, which was the biggest financial decision ever made by the State, have yet to be fully explained,” Mr Lynch said.

“Those involved in it will have to explain publicly the reasoning for their decisions and the information they were provided with which informed their decisions ...we want to ensure the cost of this inquiry will be measurable to the work that it needs, and will not run into the type of sums we’ve seen with previous tribunals.”