Banking inquiry will be granted powers to compel witnesses to attend
THE Oireachtas banking inquiry will have powers to compel witnesses to attend and give their account of the €64bn bank system meltdown five years ago.
The Government has signalled that a special parliamentary inquiry will be set up in the coming weeks, and hearings may finally get under way in the autumn.
The chairman will be Cork Labour TD Ciaran Lynch. In all there are expected to be nine inquiry committee members, seven TDs and two senators.
The two government parties will have four members; there will be one each for Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and the Technical Group.
Fianna Fail again warned that the inquiry's credibility has already been undermined by fresh comments yesterday from the Taoiseach about damage done by "Fianna Fail's regime of light-touch regulation".
Its finance spokesman Michael McGrath said this compounded comments by Mr Kenny in June 2013 about the need for an inquiry to uncover an "axis of collusion" between Fianna Fail and Anglo Irish Bank.
"We support a banking inquiry, but we always said we wanted one headed by an independent person such as a former High Court judge," Mr McGrath told the Irish Independent.
Both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein also deplored the lack of consultation with other parties for an inquiry – which is nominally under the control of the Dail and Seanad.
Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty said the government announcement of the chairman was just one example of its control over the inquiry. Fianna Fail also warned that the inquiry cannot be used to undermine it ahead of the 2016 general election.
Mr McGrath said he was concerned at the focus on the blanket bank guarantee and called for an examination of bank regulation failures, the banks' conduct, and later bank decisions taken by the current government. "We must also look at their decision in 2011 not to deliver on their promise to 'burn the bondholders' in Anglo and Irish Nationwide and their later decision to place IBRC into liquidation," he said.
But Mr Lynch, currently chairman of the Oireachtas finance committee, said the terms of reference would be fixed by the committee members. He said the emphasis must be on delivering a prompt and cost-effective inquiry.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said the banking inquiry will test the capacity of the Oireachtas but the inquiry terms of reference will be devised speedily enough.
"There is a demand to know what happened and I think there are a lot of unanswered questions that have emerged from the court proceedings that should be answered by those directly responsible," he said.