TD who raised issue of Siteserv sale to Dáil criticises inquiry’s progress

Commission’s workload includes 500,000 pages of documentation and 102 statements

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy: “To say I am disappointed is probably an understatement.” Photograph:  Lorraine O’Sullivan

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy: “To say I am disappointed is probably an understatement.” Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

 

The politician who first raised the controversial sale of Siteserv by the Irish Bank Resolution Company (IBRC) to businessman Denis O’Brien has said she is deeply disappointed at the lack of headway made so far by a commission of inquiry looking into the matter.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy disclosed in the Dáil in 2015 that IRBC, the entity which took over the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank, had given Siteserv a loan write down of €110 million before it was sold in 2012 for €45 million to Millington, a company owned by Mr O’Brien.

Siteserv provided services to the construction and communications sector. It has since been renamed Actavo.

The last government appointed Mr Justice Brian Cregan in 2015 as the sole member of a commission of investigation into transactions involving State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, that resulted in a loss of more than €10 million to taxpayers. The terms of the commission were changed a year later to focus initially on the 2012 sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien’s company.

The commission was initially asked to report in 2016 but last month it asked for a 15-month extension, bringing its publication date to March 2020. This is much longer than was anticipated when it was being set up. Costs to date, excluding third party costs, have reached €4.5 million.

In its latest interim report the Cregan commission has listed its workload to date, including 500,000 pages of documentation, 148 days of evidence in oral hearings, as well as 102 witness statements. However, it has yet to make any substantive findings.

Another extension

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met a number of Opposition leaders earlier this month to discuss the investigation’s progress and indicated that he wished to ascertain what evidence the commission had obtained to date before deciding on granting another extension.

“What concerns me about the commission,” said Ms Murphy last night, “is that the format it is following is akin to a tribunal of inquiry rather than a private investigation. There seems to be a highly legalistic approach.

“That is not what was expected. I myself said I did not want it to go on forever when it was set up. It will be five years. To say I am disappointed is probably an understatement.”

Ms Murphy said it was imperative there was an outcome so people could know the full facts behind the sale of Siteserv to Mr O’Brien’s company. “I share some of the concerns about the length of time and costs. We need to get some conclusions.”