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Friday 24 March 2017

Lenihan calls for name and shame-style inquiry

Commission to go ahead despite reservations of Central Bank's Honohan

Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan at a press briefing on the two bank reports which were presented to Government last week
Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan at a press briefing on the two bank reports which were presented to Government last week
Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan wants the investigation into Ireland's banking collapse to "name and shame" those responsible for bringing the financial system to its knees.

Speaking after a lengthy appearance before the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Mr Lenihan hinted at his continued support for a Commission of Inquiry into the banking debacle even though Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan has questioned the approach.

"I think what happened in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide is so serious that I find it very difficult to accept how we can proceed other than a statutory commission of inquiry," Mr Lenihan told journalists.

Asked if it should "name and shame" individuals, Mr Lenihan replied "yes, of course".

Despite supporting the commission approach, the Minister yesterday agreed to discuss the issues raised by Prof Honohan with cross-party representatives from the Finance Committee at a private meeting next Tuesday.

Some of the TDs and Senators support Prof Honohan's view that more could be achieved with a series of reports and a hearings rather than a costly full-blown commission.

They also want a private meeting between the committee members and Prof Honohan, where they could further tease out the views of the Central Bank governor, who authored a damning report on the financial meltdown.

Comprehensive

"I'm of course open to the views of opposition," Mr Lenihan told journalists, "I can't procure his [Mr Honohan's] attendance, but I'll have to now talk to him and see does he want to [meet the Committee in private]."

At yesterday's committee meeting, Mr Lenihan also stressed that while Prof Honohan believed his report was "comprehensive", that report only extended to the regulatory failings that led to the collapse and the crisis-management response.

"The more general questions of what should be investigated in the banks was actually a matter for Mr Regling and Watson [who authored a separate report], and they did propose terms of reference [for a Commission of Inquiry]," Mr Lenihan said.

"I don't think that Mr Regling and Mr Watson could be taken as saying there should be no further investigation."

Mr Lenihan also confirmed that he had already begun an "exploratory" trawl of potential chairs for the commission.

"I am very much of that view that an Irish lawyer is not the person who should chair this commission," he said, suggesting someone with high-level experience of international banking would be more suitable.

Yesterday's meeting featured discussions on a raft of amendments to the Central Bank Reform Bill as the legislation passed through the committee stage.

Transparent

The bulk of the opposition amendments were shot down, but Mr Lenihan said Fine Gael's suggestion that members of the new Central Bank board could only sit for two terms was "very sensible" and would be "considered".

The minister will also reflect on the potential to use the legislation to make the Central Bank more transparent, possibly by extending the Freedom of Information Act to some aspects of the organisation.

Mr Lenihan also confirmed that the European Commission had issued its final advice on the bill on Thursday night. The comments, which will be published over the coming days, are understood to be technical in nature and not proposing substantial changes.

Irish Independent

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