Finance expert Peter Nyberg to be first before banking inquiry

Up to 30 witnesses due before Oireachtas finance committee in first phase of inquiry

Finnish  finance expert Peter Nyberg will appear at the Oireachtas banking inquiry when it starts its first public hearing on Wednesday. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Finnish finance expert Peter Nyberg will appear at the Oireachtas banking inquiry when it starts its first public hearing on Wednesday. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Finnish academic and finance expert Peter Nyberg, author of a 2011 report on the banking debacle, will be the first person to face questions at the Oireachtas banking inquiry when it starts its first public hearing on Wednesday.

Two 3½-hour sessions will be held this week before the Christmas recess, and up to 30 witnesses are expected to appear before the Oireachtas finance committee between January and March in the first phase of the two-part inquiry.

Committee chairman Ciarán Lynch described the first section of the inquiry as the “context phase”, when the 11-member team will meet experts to “get an in-depth understanding of different aspects of the banking crisis which will prepare the ground and set out the landscape for the nexus phase”.

After the information-gathering in the initial stage, the nexus phase will start in April when the committee will focus on three areas: banking, regulatory and crisis management systems, and will interview institutions and individuals who had roles during the crisis.

The committee hearings will run from 9.30am to 1pm daily, and when the inquiry resumes in January it is expected to sit in public session most Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Misjudging risk

Commission of Investigation into the Banking Sector, Misjudging Risk: Causes of the Systemic Banking Crisis in Ireland.

The inquiry will hear on Thursday from former Canadian general secretary of finance Rob Wright, whose report Strengthening the Capacity of the Department of Finance was completed in 2010.

The committee will review the findings and recommendations in their reports, and will examine what has changed since they were published.

A lot of what have been called the “essential questions” have been prepared for each witness, and at every session there will be two lead questioners from among the committee members, with additional questions later from others in the team of seven TDs and four Senators.

The committee chairman is confident the inquiry will not stray into territory that could affect any potential legal proceedings.

“We can’t make adverse findings against an individual,” Mr Lynch said, adding they could only make findings of fact.

“We still do not have a full picture of the events leading up to, during and after the crisis,” he said.

“It is up to us as a committee to put the final pieces of the jigsaw in place so that a full picture emerges.

“We have the potential and power to add value to what is already known.

“We can help to increase the public’s understanding of what went wrong.”

The inquiry is a more structured setting than a normal committee meeting. It will operate under the terms of new inquiries legislation, the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013, and all members will have to remain for every part of every session.

Mr Lynch said the inquiry could make findings of fact, but could only do so if all members were present for all of each session.

The governor of the Central Bank, Prof Patrick Honohan, is expected to attend the committee in January to discuss his 2010 report into regulatory and financial stability policy in the years before the banking crisis.

First witness

Along with Mr Lynch, a Labour Party TD, the committee includes Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty, Socialist TD Joe Higgins, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath, and Fine Gael backbenchers Eoghan Murphy, Kieran O’Donnell and John Paul Phelan.

The Senators on the committee include Independent Sean D Barrett (an economist), Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy, Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry and Susan O’Keeffe of Labour.