Sunday 24 September 2017

McGuinness is 'only one who thinks he should head inquiry'

John McGuinness
John McGuinness

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FIANNA Fail TD John McGuinness is "the only person" who thinks he should get to chair a banking inquiry, according to a member of the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The embattled PAC chair continues to be criticised by members of his own committee.

Labour Party TD Ged Nash said there was "a lot riding" on the banking inquiry and the Government and Oireachtas "can't afford a bloody nose in the courts".

Mr McGuinness claims unnamed officials are leaking information about him and there is a "cabal of five civil servants who are trying to block or water down a banking inquiry".

Given Mr McGuinness's comments about civil servants and the banking inquiry, Mr Nash said there was a question mark about his impartiality.

"I think there has to be absolute clarity from the Oireachtas. There is a lot riding on this inquiry," he said.

The Labour TD for Louth pointed out new legislation was setting out a clear process for inquiries to be carried out to avoid the previous occasions where they had got bogged down by court challenges.

"If you look at the inquiry legislation, it would appear Deputy McGuinness has put himself at a considerable disadvantage.

"The only person that has decided John McGuinness should chair a banking inquiry is John McGuinness," he said.

Mr Nash's comments follow those of his Labour colleague Derek Nolan, who said Mr McGuinness should not chair the banking inquiry.

Mr McGuinness is embroiled in controversies following revelations in the Irish Independent about the spending on the Fianna Fail TD's former ministerial office – which he had no hand in the specification or fit out – his son's overtime and his justification of his wife accompanying him on trips abroad.

Mr Nolan and Mr Nash are not calling for Mr McGuinness to resign. Independent TD Shane Ross says he believes the banking inquiry should not be carried out by TDs and should be handed to lawyers or a jury.

But Labour TD Robert Dowds said it was appropriate for the Dail to conduct an inquiry into the banks and said Mr Ross was trying to "dumb down our legislature".

'Coffers'

"In the 1990s, a Dail parliamentary committee conducted the DIRT inquiry into banks which were encouraging clients to avoid tax. That cost the State €1.8m and yielded at least €90m for state coffers.

"In contrast, the Mahon Tribunal, which was headed up by a judge, is likely to cost the State €247m and only yielded €53m for the Exchequer," he said.

Irish Independent

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