Tuesday 19 September 2017

Colleagues warn TD to keep mum on bank probe

John McGuinness: made public comments about inquiry
John McGuinness: made public comments about inquiry

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FIANNA Fail TD John McGuinness was given a thinly veiled warning by colleagues on the Dail taxpayers' watchdog body for sounding off about holding a banking inquiry.

Members of the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) cautioned Mr McGuinness, its chairman, about making announcements before any decisions were made and the powers of the inquiry were decided upon.

He had made public comments about plans to set up an inquiry and the scope of its investigations.

The PAC is to send a plan to Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin this month on how an inquiry could be carried out.

In recent weeks, Mr McGuinness has spoken about the scope of the inquiry, as well as emails from a former Department of Finance official whose warnings about the financial crash were ignored and the need to get access to the personal papers of former finance minister Brian Lenihan.

It is almost unprecedented for PAC members to criticise their chairman.

Fine Gael Limerick TD Kieran O'Donnell told the committee last week: "The integrity of the inquiry is vital and I want to check if there are legal ramifications that so much is already in the public domain prior to areas being discussed by the PAC beforehand.

"I am specifically referring to the private papers of Brian Lenihan. For me, it is simple; I want this inquiry to work. The integrity of the inquiry is vital and I would prefer if items were not put into the public domain before they are discussed by the committee. Could the chairman deal with that point?"

Fine Gael Dublin South-East TD Eoghan Murphy said expectations had been heightened by publicity.

"We need to manage those expectations," he said. "People want to see a robust inquiry and it is very important that we are conscious of what we say and do inside and outside the committee in light of these expectations."

Unhappy

Fine Gael Waterford TD John Deasy had previously said members of the committee were unhappy with Mr McGuinness. He said the banking inquiry would be a test of the committee -- which is traditionally non partisan.

"It would be unfortunate if there was grandstanding," he warned. "We should keep a lid on our views before we decide on the issue as a committee."

Galway West Labour TD Derek Nolan said "the expectation has been rekindled in the press that a no-holds barred banking inquiry will go ahead, which we all know cannot and will not happen because of the legal framework under which the committee operates".

Irish Independent

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