Sunday 4 December 2016

Brian Cowen invited to answer questions at Oireachtas Banking Inquiry

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

Published 16/04/2015 | 19:34

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has finally been invited to answer questions at the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry, and he will appear in July.

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New figures released show the inquiry has cost the taxpayer €2.1m so far and could cost a total of €5m on its completion.

The Oireachtas Banking Inquiry has called Mr Cowen to give evidence to the committee as part of the central investigative or nexus phase of its work.

Mr Cowen, who was Fianna Fail leader Taoiseach at the time of the financial crisis in 2008 and our ultimate entry into the Troika bailout in 2010, is known to be very annoyed at the delay in being called.

He is keen to counter evidence given to the inquiry in January by Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan that he overruled his then-finance minister, the late Brian Lenihan, on the night of the bank guarantee.

The former leader of Fianna Fáil is one of 14 witnesses sent a letter yesterday by the inquiry.

No date has been set for their appearances, but sources close to the inquiry have said it will be in July.

Others receiving notification today include the former minister for finance and European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy; Liam O’Reilly, a former financial regulator; Kevin Cardiff, a former secretary general of the department of finance who is now in currently holds a senior role with the European Court of Auditors, and David Doyle, who headed the Department of Finance at the time of the crisis.

Derek Moran, the current secretary general of the Department of Finance, has also been sent an invitation, along with his predecessor, John Moran, who left the post last year.

In addition, Central Bank of Ireland governor Patrick Honohan has been asked to re-appear before the committee. Cyril Roux, who currently heads up financial regulation at the Central Bank, and his immediate predecessor, Englishman Matthew Elderfield, who now has a senior position with Lloyds Banking Group in the UK, are also on the list of those called.

The Nexus phase will run from April 22 until the middle of September, with a total of 64 public hearings planned. About 60 witnesses will be called during this phase.

The Committee also agreed a process of engagement with the European Central Bank that will entail a dual approach of “separate, but complimentary meetings” with former president Jean-Claude Trichet and current ECB deputy president Vítor Constâncio.

The inquiry also released cost figures and other details of its work to date last night.

The documents reveal that establishment and initial scoping work cost €996,000, including €220,000 in capital fit-out costs for the committee rooms and staff accommodation.

Computer and ICT equipment cost €290,000, the figures state. Staffing for the inquiry during its set-up cost €426,000 with legal advice amounting to €56,000.

Current running costs since the inquiry began in earnest before Christmas have topped €1.17m, with €897,000 being spent on staff costs. 

Of that, €476,000 has gone on secretariat staff, €360,000 has gone on the inquiry’s investigation team while a further €61,000 has gone on support staff for individual members of the inquiry.

So-called “external services” have cost €244,000 so far, with €107,000 of that going on legal costs. Public hearing costs, witness expenses and other miscellaneous costs have amounted to €34,000. The inquiry said it took the decision to publish its costs to date in the interests of transparency and openness.

“Much of the work of the committee is less visible to the public. It is a complex project, requiring significant behind the scenes work,”the documents state. Some inquiry members, including Independent Senator Sean Barrett, have criticised the high costs of the inquiry.

It has also emerged that a row erupted between some members of the inquiry and some of their staff at a marathon meeting on Wednesday night.

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