Wednesday 7 December 2016

Inquiry is doomed to fail given lack of strong powers

Published 03/11/2015 | 00:00

Understandably, Fianna Fáil would like to spread the blame far and wide in defending the actions taken by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen
Understandably, Fianna Fáil would like to spread the blame far and wide in defending the actions taken by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen

The much-maligned €5m Oireachtas Banking Inquiry is now moving to conclude its work.

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Dogged by accusations of being a pointless farce, it has been likened to a eunuch, given how limited its legal powers are. Now its public hearings are complete, and the drafting process of a final report is well under way.

At this stage, however, expectations are low as to what that final document will deliver.

We know the committee will not be in a position to make any adverse findings against any one individual or institution, such is the weakness in the legal powers underpinning the inquiry.

Even within the committee itself, expectations are that legal advisers will force the exclusion of any hard-hitting conclusions.

There are also fears that much of the valuable evidence given at the inquiry may ultimately have to be discounted and omitted on legal grounds.

Dedication

There have even been suggestions that some members of the inquiry could move to produce a so-called minority report, in order to give a more reflective body of work of all the evidence to date.

This is why today's revelations are so important.

Whatever the limitations of the inquiry, no one can fault the dedication and effort of the 11 committee members.

They were forced to sit through every minute of testimony as well as countless private meetings.

Political differences exist between the members of the committee, and ideological ones too.

Understandably, Fianna Fáil would like to spread the blame far and wide in defending the actions taken by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Defending the establishment of Nama is somewhat predictable as well.

But those views are clearly not shared by other committee members.

Fine Gael members appear to have concluded that the financial crisis was largely Irish made, and that the Bank Guarantee itself was a massive gamble based on wholly incorrect numbers.

Other independent members of the committee bring different views, with people such as Joe Higgins being deeply critical of Fianna Fáil and the bankers, as well as the ECB, for their role in burdening the Irish people with tens of billions of banking losses.

In truth, there appears little hope of many of the most interesting findings making it into the final document.

But by and large, the public seems to have already made up its mind as to who was at fault for Ireland's sad economic decline.

They unleashed their fury on Fianna Fáil at the ballot box in 2011 and on Fine Gael and Labour last year.

They resent the USC and water charges as the taxes being inflicted to pay for the crash, and repeated opinion polls reflect a huge anger towards the ECB and other faceless European institutions.

But they deserved a better process than the one they got.

Coming towards the end of the inquiry's life, there has been precious little to say in its favour, and ultimately it is doomed to fail, given how powerless it is.

Irish Independent

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