IBRC inquiry an ‘indictment’ of Noonan and department

Clare Daly tells Dáil Coalition could no longer cover for ‘friendly oligarch’ Denis O’Brien

Independent Socialist Clare Daly said the only reason there was a commission was that businessman Denis O’Brien, had overstepped the mark. Screengrab: Oireachtas/The Irish Times

Independent Socialist Clare Daly said the only reason there was a commission was that businessman Denis O’Brien, had overstepped the mark. Screengrab: Oireachtas/The Irish Times

 

The establishment of a commission of inquiry in to IBRC was a “huge indictment” of the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and his department and not a vindication of his greatness, the Dáil has heard.

Independent socialist Clare Daly said the reason there was a commission was because businessman Denis O’Brien, had overstepped the mark and gone so far that even the Government “could not cover up for its friendly oligarch”.

She claimed Mr O’Brien had done this “probably after years of getting his own way by bullying and intimidating the media into silence”.

Ms Daly said: “The rules had been broken. Denis O’Brien overstepped the mark and even the Government could not cover up that situation.”

The Dublin North TD, like many opposition speakers on the first night of the two-day debate referred to the beef tribunal and the words of the late Mr Justice Liam Hamilton.

“He said at the time that if the parliamentary questions had been answered, there would have been no need for the expense of the tribunal,” Ms Daly told the Dáil.

There was a “here we go again” feel to the issue. “It is yet another inquiry. It is yet another investigation into questionable practices at the highest levels.”

She said yet more questions were being raised about the undue influence of a businessman over decisions that affected the public interest and cost the public purse money.

“Here we are again with the same civil servant-speak, the same culture of not answering questions, of deliberately designing answers in a manner which conceals information rather than giving Deputies information.”

Sinn Féin’s Padraig Mac Lochlainn said he hoped all the “bullying and intimidation” journalists had been put through would come to an end once and for all.

The Donegal North East TD said he hoped businessman Mr O’Brien’s “reign will soon come to an end in this State and that we can have a properly functioning democracy as well as a properly functioning media”.

He hoped the media would feel it “can report accurately what happens, hold big business to account and deal with white collar crime so that we can cleanse ourselves of the culture that has bankrupted and crippled our State and our people”.

Just three Government backbenchers spoke during the first night of the debate last six-and-a-half hours.

Fine Gael Cork South West TD Jim Daly said there seemed to be a “witch hunt” against Mr O’Brien. He said he had never met Mr O’Brien and did not know him from Adam.

But he said there were many Opposition TDs and media who would have liked the commission “to go after Denis O’Brien directly” and appeared to have forgotten about all the other ancillary issues that have been raised.

He said “since time immemorial when assets are sold at a knockdown price, someone will always benefit from it”.

And there had been some extraordinary good deals, he said, adding that he could not understand how the person who purchases an asset was being criminalised.

“Questions can be asked about the seller, as well as the mode of selling it and the ethics involved but I am at a loss as to why the purchaser has come to be the criminal.”

Fine Gael’s Paul Connaughton Jnr said the establishment of the commission was prompted “by the danger of a public perception that the big player in the market is always at an advantage over the smaller player”.

He said those who had the money to buy property “at the lowest ebb of a recessionary cycle stand to make the most as an economy recovers. That is true all over the world.”

The commission would have to decide “if an unfair advantage was given to any particular player at the expense of the Irish taxpayer”.

Labour Minister of State Ged Nash agreed with Mr Noonan “that we have not as yet had any proof of wrongdoing. However, I also agree that there has been significant public concern.”

He said inquiries sometimes discovered proof of the wrongdoing and “sometimes they allay our misgivings and provide assurance that fears were misplaced. At this stage, I withhold judgment on what will be uncovered.”

Mr Nash asked if the bank dealt with Mr O’Brien or other major customers, “in any way differently from its other customers and if so, why?”

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton said she was specifically called for the commission to submit an interim report to the Taoiseach by September 14th and that the Dáil be recalled no later than September 15th to debate it.

She also said the final report should be published by October 30th and not December 31st as is provided for in the terms of reference.

Mr Creighton said it was “extraordinary that after all our years of tribunals of investigation, scandals in public life, stealth and cloak-and-dagger moves, we still have not mastered the art of investigating wrongdoing or issues of public concern in an expeditious fashion”.