Banking inquiry may request legal safeguards

FF Senator wants emergency legislation prepared if investigation collapses

 Sinn Féin member of the Oireachtas banking inquiry Pearse Doherty has still not decided whether he will sign off on the report. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sinn Féin member of the Oireachtas banking inquiry Pearse Doherty has still not decided whether he will sign off on the report. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Oireachtas banking inquiry is to consider requesting emergency legislation to preserve its work in the event that its report cannot be published because of disagreements among its members.

Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry raised the issue at a private meeting of the committee and suggested emergency legislation be prepared in the event the inquiry collapses.

He said: “I am as committed as every member is to producing a report but I think it is appropriate that we would ask the Minister or the Attorney General to consider what legislative steps can be taken to allow for the preservation of our work in the possible but undesirable outcome that the work collapses.”

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is said to be open to the suggestion.

Mr Howlin is eager that the evidence the members received, including the 500,000 documents, can be published.

‘Obvious fail-safe’

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy said: “It is essential that such legislation is prepared immediately. I would be surprised if that work hasn’t already started because it is an obvious fail-safe.”

Members will meet again today to consider the draft report after extending the amendment process until yesterday evening. It is understood there are substantial changes being requested by members. No new executive summary has been distributed after TDs complained the original 40-page summary was too political.

The committee has yet to agree on findings or recommendations, but members including Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath have objected to some that have been presented.

Legal review

When the members do agree to the report it will be the subject of a legal review for three days.

If it passes the legal test it will then be sent to interested parties for review.

Members met for four hours on Wednesday night and agreed to extend the publication date until January 27th.

However, the nine TDs and three Senators admitted the likelihood of producing a final report is becoming less certain by the day.

The new publication date brings a number of risks for the committee. The inquiry will now only have a 24-hour buffer if something potentially goes wrong.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said he had still not decided whether he will sign off on the report. Socialist TD Joe Higgins has confirmed he won’t sign off on the report.

Mr Doherty also called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to name the date of the next general election to allow the inquiry complete its work.

He said the committee was still in a race against time to complete its work and publication of a final report was still not guaranteed.

“One of the biggest challenges we face is we don’t know when the next general election is going to be called.

“If Enda Kenny told us now the general election would be called in mid-February then that would allow the team to set a realistic deadline to get it across the line,” Mr Doherty said.