Shane Ross criticises ‘partisan’ tribunal practices
Independent TD says problem is that ‘we have insiders judging insiders’
Shane Ross: “I’m not suggesting that whoever is appointed eventually is flawed”, but “everybody in this House knows that those who are going to sit in judgment in such tribunals are political appointees”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
The practice of appointing judges to head commissions of inquiry was questioned in the Dáil on Wednesday.
Independent TD Shane Ross asked: “Is there some absolutely sacred rule that a person who has been in the judiciary should automatically be appointed as chairman of such an inquiry, and therefore we should accept him or her as someone of totally unimpeachable motivation or expertise?”
There should be “no automatic acceptance of that fact”, he added.
Mr Ross, speaking during the debate on the investigation into IBRC transactions, before the appointment of the commission chairman, said, “I’m not suggesting that whoever is appointed eventually is flawed”, but “everybody in this House knows that those who are going to sit in judgment in such tribunals are political appointees”.
He said they were appointed by governments and individuals “on a very partisan basis which is utterly flawed and discredited”. One problem, he added, is that “we have insiders judging insiders”.
After a two-day debate, the Dáil backed the terms of reference for the inquiry by 119 votes to 20, with Fianna Fáil and the Independent TD Catherine Murphy among those supporting the Government.
Replying in the debate, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan confirmed that former High Court judge Daniel O’Keeffe would chair the commission of investigation. He said Mr O’Keeffe had a strong commercial background and was a qualified chartered accountant and a former chairman of the Irish Takeover Panel.
Mr Noonan said that, under the terms of reference, the commission would have the power to investigate any transaction of any value that gave rise to, or was likely to give rise to, potential public concerns.
He said that while various allegations had been made, nothing had been proven at this stage and it would be up to the commission to investigate the various matters involved.
Mr Noonan said TDs should bring to the judge’s attention any information that might be a cause for public concern.
Earlier, Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton told the Dáil that the Attorney General had confirmed that the allegations made by Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty were included in the terms of reference.
Mr Doherty claimed that businessman Denis O’Brien had a €315 million IBRC loan extended on the basis of an apparent verbal agreement, despite it having been repeatedly rejected earlier by the bank’s group credit committee.
During the debate, Independent TD Finian McGrath, who supported the inquiry, said commissions should also focus on issues such as homelessness and investigate why 138,000 children in this country are living in poverty.