IBRC commission could cost up to €25m, Taoiseach says
Fees to eight legal counsel for work since 2015 total €1.23 million, Varadkar says
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil the estimate of between €20 million and €25 million for the cost of operating the commission of investigation into IBRC was “tentative”. Photograph: Reuters
He told the Dáil the estimate was “tentative” for the commission, which was established in 2015 to consider transactions involving State-owned IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, that resulted in a loss of more than €10 million to taxpayers.
The following year the commissioner’s terms changed to focus on the 2012 sale of Siteserv to a company owned by businessman Denis O’Brien for €45.5 million, with a write-off of €110 million in loans.
The estimated cost was based on the current rate of expenditure, the extended work timeframe, the risk of further delays and likely legal costs.
Mr Varadkar said that by the end of January this year the commission had spent just over €3 million, which included staff costs but not the “significant third-party legal fees and costs incurred that will arise for payment in due course”.
From the time it started operations until the end of January this year, the commission had spent €1.23 million on legal fees for two senior counsel and six junior counsel.
The Taoiseach reiterated the Government’s refusal of a request by the commission’s sole member, Mr Justice Brian Cregan, to double the payment for counsel from €788.27 a day for senior counsel and €394.14 for junior counsel, excluding VAT.
Mr Varadkar said: “The commission maintained that the current rates were inadequate and becoming problematic in that they were not sufficient to attract and retain counsel with the relevant commercial law experience and expertise.”
But the Taoiseach, who consulted Opposition leaders in November on the issue, pointed to the concerns at the knock-on effect of such an increase on other commissions of investigation.
Mr Varadkar said the commission “drew a comparison with the higher rates paid to counsel currently engaged in the disclosures tribunal”.
But he added that he did not accept that the work involved in a commission was the same as that of a tribunal and “a commission’s hearings are held in private while a tribunal’s are held in public. That is a very different nature.”