Saturday 1 October 2016

Banking Inquiry no block to early election

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

Published 08/12/2015 | 02:30

Banking Inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch
Banking Inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch

The embattled Banking Inquiry is no longer viewed as a reason to hold off calling a General Election by senior figures within Fine Gael.

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And the Irish Independent has learned the inquiry will get fresh legal advice on where its draft report will stand if the Dáil is dissolved before the publication deadline of January 28.

There is mounting speculation in Fine Gael circles that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will go to the electorate very quickly after the party's two-day conference in the RDS on January 22 and 23.

"The Banking Inquiry report was seen as a big obstacle to calling an early election. With the draft report done, just about getting over the line, that's unlikely to be a huge public issue any more," said one source.

Two separate inquiry sources also admitted that members are conscious their work could still fall by the wayside if Mr Kenny calls an election.

Asked about his intentions yesterday, the Taoiseach said he hoped the committee would produce its report within the time-scale allocated.

"Obviously, the question of a General Election is one I refer to on many occasions. It will happen early in the spring," he added.

One of Fianna Fáil's two members on the inquiry team, Michael McGrath, said it is vital the final report is published.

He described the work so far as "a public service".

"The content of the report will be published alongside evidence books.

"That contains important documents that would never have seen the light of day. That's the added importance [that] this gets over the line," he said.

The Inquiry is chaired by Labour TD Ciarán Lynch. Inquiry staff were yesterday formatting the draft report before it is sent to legal advisors for their assessment.

Along with flagging any potential legal issues, lawyers have been asked to reassess the situation if an election is called before final publication.

Sources said that previous legal advice suggested that if "a certain number" of members are returned in the election the report could survive, but the situation is unclear.

The aim is to send the draft report to around 50 people considered "interested parties" on Friday and they will have until Christmas Day to respond with their observations.

On foot of those submissions the committee is likely to meet on December 28 to review proposed changes.

The Irish Independent understands that the main sticking point during the lengthy weekend negotiations was whether or not the banks could have opened without the bank guarantee.

"There was no real horse-trading. Everything was done by consensus but that was the closest there came to being an actual vote. There was a conflict on that issue," said a source.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Joe Higgins is to publish his own alternative report.

Irish Independent

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