Siteserv deal will be independently examined, Tanaiste pledges
Burton aware of doubts about inquiry promise by Taoiseach
TANAISTE Joan Burton has said the €45m sale of the company Siteserv must be subjected to “an independent inquiry by a competent authority.”
The Labour leader told the Dail she was aware of doubts that the public spending watchdog, the Comptroller & Auditor General (C&AG), did not have enough power to examine the controversial transaction.
This contradicted a pledge to the Dail yesterday by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that the C&AG would examine the transaction which involved the sale of the company to a firm owned by businessman, Denis O’Brien.
After repeated Dail questions Ms Burton said the options were to change the law to allow the C&AG do the work – or establish an independent commission of inquiry.
“No Government decision has been taken on this matter,” Ms Burton told the third day of Dail controversy about the ongoing row. The Tanaiste also signalled that other similar big transactions could be examined by the same process.
There were also bad-tempered and unruly scenes as Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) TD Ruth Coppinger said Mr O’Brien had been the subject of adverse findings previously.
Ms Coppinger alleged Mr O’Brien had “Fine Gael links” and also “owned large swathes of media”.
The AAA TD was repeatedly called to order for naming people in breach of Dail procedures. Ms Burton accused Ms Coppinger of “cheap shots” against people not present to defend themselves.
Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are both pushing for a major inquiry into the 2012 sale of the debt-ridden company by IBRC bank which had been set up to resolve debts at Anglo Irish Bank and in other banks.
Micheal Martin repeated his concerns about a €5m payment to shareholders to speed up the deal; the fact that the same legal and other advisers were acting for both sides; and the concerns about the entire deal at
Ms Burton said the C&AG had a good track record of “scoping out” issues for a parliamentary inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Finance Minister had assured he was satisfied with how the deal was handled. But why he was reassured was not explained. She said the taxpayers’ interests were of major concern.
Ms Burton said that apart from the company shareholders – there were 1,500 jobs at stake in the company at the time. This number had since grown to 3,000 jobs.
The Labour leader told Micheal Martin that he was in government for much of this including the collapse Anglo Irish Bank which left taxpayers with a €34bn bill. She accused Mary Lou McDonald of applying hindsight to the chaos which prevailed in 2011/2012.