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Saturday 19 August 2017

New laws on way to restart stalled Siteserv probe

After a meeting with the Taoiseach yesterday, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said she was pleased that some progress is being made on the issue (Picture: Courtpix)
After a meeting with the Taoiseach yesterday, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said she was pleased that some progress is being made on the issue (Picture: Courtpix)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

New laws are expected to be brought before the Dáil ahead of the summer recess to restart the stalled investigation into transactions by the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has indicated to Opposition TDs that the Cabinet will next Wednesday discuss how to kick-start the Cregan Commission of Investigation into IBRC.

One likely outcome is that efforts will be made to separate out a probe into the sale of contracting firm Siteserv, which is the most high-profile transaction under scrutiny.

The Commission was set up almost a year ago to investigate 38 transactions involving write-offs worth more than €10m.

It was established following a series of allegations made in the Dáil, but there was particular disquiet over the Siteserv deal.

It was acquired by businessman Denis O'Brien's Millington company with a write-off of €110m.

A subsidiary of Siteserv called GMC/Sierra went on to win a valuable contract installing meters for Irish Water.

However, the inquiry stalled after its sole member, Mr Justice Brian Cregan, highlighted problems around legal confidentiality, privilege and obtaining information from the Stock Exchange.

After a meeting with the Taoiseach yesterday, Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said she was pleased that some progress is being made on the issue.

She said Mr Kenny had given assurances that the Siteserv element of the investigation would be "addressed promptly".

He told Ms Murphy and the leaders of Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil that the Government is prepared to amend the Commission's terms of reference to allow for a modular approach.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan, who is heading the inquiry, has indicated that if the amendments are made and the legislation enacted, he will be in a position to report on Siteserv within a 12- to 18-month timeframe.

"It's not the ideal situation to put the other transactions on the back burner but I do believe that if we can agree a meaningful investigation into the Siteserv transaction it will go a long way to showing us if the culture within IBRC was the best it could have been in relation to the way in which transactions were conducted," Ms Murphy said.

"I am also pleased to hear that the proposed new legislation will contain amendments to the Stock Exchange Act, which has proven itself to be deficient."

Ms Murphy said that this was the first Commission of Investigation to deal with banking issues.

"Given the financial issues in Ireland over the last few years, it is unlikely that this will be the last time we require a Commission into banking matters and therefore it is vital that we get the infrastructure right from the outset," she said.

Irish Independent

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