Enda and Micheál clash over banking inquiry committee

Dáil Sketch: Was the Taoiseach trying to dictate an Oireachtas inquiry’s terms of reference?

Micheál Martin: Had a mini-meltdown over banking inquiry committee

Micheál Martin: Had a mini-meltdown over banking inquiry committee


When is an independent, non-partisan committee not a committee?

When the Government doesn’t like it.

During Leaders’ Questions yesterday, Micheál Martin decided not to return to the subject of the Oireachtas Committee on Embarrassing Fianna Fáil over the Banking Crisis.

He had a mini-meltdown in the chamber on Tuesday evening when Enda Kenny explained that the launch of this long-heralded inquiry has had to be postponed because the Government doesn’t have a voting majority on it.

He helpfully added that this meant he might not be able to get the terms of reference agreed as there was no knowing what the two Fianna Fáil members might do in this regard.

TMI there, Enda, as the young people might say. Or Too Much Information, as some of his wincing Coalition colleagues said afterwards.

Micheál (no stranger to his own party’s majority manoeuvrings on the make-up on important committees when it was in power) was outraged at what he was hearing.

Was the Taoiseach trying to dictate an Oireachtas inquiry’s terms of reference?

Whereupon independent TD Stephen Donnelly, bless his innocence, pointed out “the committee’s terms of reference are not the business of the Executive.”

Oh, but the cat is out of the bag now, fumed the Fianna Fáil leader.

And that same poor cat was running around Leinster House yesterday doing a great impression of a headless chicken as the Coalition scrambled to find a way to reimpose its authority in the banking inquiry.

All this because they made a mess of organising a Seanad selection committee vote, which saw two Opposition Senators chosen to represent the Upper House at the inquiry, thus depriving Enda of his planned majority on the team of nine Oireachtas members.

This procedural clanger happened last week, but Enda and his embarrassed colleagues are refusing to take their beating, with mutterings about a “conflict of interest” which may render Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry (the surprise beneficiary of the Government’s ineptitude) unsuitable to take part in the hearings.

As the day wore on, TDs and Senators scrutinised the selection rules for possible loopholes in the process.

On one side, Fianna Fáil was claiming that attempts to overturn the result of a fair vote would be an unprecedented move for the Oireachtas and an outrageous case of political interference.

The Coalition corner got busy though quoting sub-sections and clauses in the rele- vant legislation and standing orders which could cast doubt on the appointments.

However, a meeting of the Seanad Committee on Procedures and Privilege last night decided that they couldn’t remove MacSharry from the inquiry.

Now, the ball is in the Government’s court. It could increase the number of members involved and get its majority, if it wants it enough to ignore the embarrassing message this would send.

Obviously, outside of Leinster House, nobody really cares about this unseemly squabble. Particularly with the World Cup starting today.

Which is as good a time as any to mention the wise words of Giovanni Trapattoni when it comes to taoisigh letting cats out of bags.

Enda’s unguarded declarations about needing a Government majority on the inquiry even startled his own troops

“I say: be careful the cat. No say the cat is in the sack when you do not have the cat in the sack.”

Enda thinks Micheál should be careful, too, when it comes to making sweeping statements.

The Fianna Fáil leader decided yesterday to return to the Taoiseach’s role in the resignation of the Garda commissioner, this time using a letter sent to party colleagues by Labour’s Alex White as ammunition.

Minister of State White wrote that he couldn’t stand over Enda “firing” the commissioner without making as much as a courtesy phone call to the Tánaiste.

Why didn’t he tell Eamon Gilmore he was going to send the general secretary of the Department of Justice out to Martin Callinan’s house “in an unprecedented move that could only have one outcome?”

Was his junior minister correct in asserting that Commissioner Callinan was sacked?

Enda went on the offensive. Micheál was making a very serious charge by accusing him of firing the commissioner.

More than once, the Taoiseach darkly intimated that he knew things but couldn’t talk about it.

“I am well aware of my responsibilities under the law,” he said. (He can’t just go and fire the chief of police.)

But there are mysterious matters which he can only tell to Mr Justice Nial Fennelly’s inquiry and he will do that when the time comes. Whenever that might be.

“You can’t hide behind Fennelly for a year and a half and hope that it’ll be buried,” protested the Fianna Fáil leader.

However, Enda, continuing to give a rather confused account of the bit he can say about those controversial events, stuck to his line that there is more to the commissioner’s departure than meets the eye.

Infuriatingly, he just won’t tell us.

Instead, he repeated the cryptic comment that Micheál Martin was making a charge “which he is going to have to stand over”.

And if we interpreted Enda’s heavy hints correctly, it seems that when all is revealed, the Fianna Fáil leader is going to have to swallow his words and will look very silly indeed.

Naturally, this had everyone wondering what class of awful intelligence the Taoiseach has on the former commissioner.

It must be really bad.

Anyway, Enda pointed out, he wasn’t the one who shunted this wretched business into the sidings of the Fennelly inquiry.

That was decided by the Oireachtas justice committee. Blame it.

To which a gleeful Opposition member shouted: “Have you a majority on that committee too, Taoiseach?”

Of course he does.