Tuesday 27 September 2016

Opposition gifted a stick to beat the Government with

Published 09/11/2015 | 02:30

At the time, Mr Noonan said there was no evidence of wrong-doing – but he wanted to ensure the taxpayer did not feel wronged. The issue of itself is not a popular theme.
At the time, Mr Noonan said there was no evidence of wrong-doing – but he wanted to ensure the taxpayer did not feel wronged. The issue of itself is not a popular theme.

The timeline for completing investigations into 37 complex and detailed money transactions at the former Anglo Irish Bank always looked extremely optimistic.

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Nobody on any political side at Leinster House believed Mr Justice Brian Cregan, who took over the Herculean task last July from another judge who had been appointed a month earlier, could meet the deadline of December 31 next.

Now, four months after Judge Cregan took over, he says the issue of confidentiality has left him able to neither lead nor drive.

In essence, he can get access to sensitive documents - but he cannot pass these documents to other people who may ultimately face allegations arising from the investigation.

Judge Cregan clearly believes this could be grossly unfair to some of those involved.

There will be no report before the election next spring. In fact, there may never be a report at all. The 37 deals by the IBRC, Anglo Irish Bank's successor, include the sale of contracting firm Siteserv to Denis O'Brien's Millington.

Judge Cregan was set a huge task, including all transactions, activities and management decisions at IBRC, which resulted in a loss of some €10m or more to the taxpayer.

He was entitled to investigate any action where there is public concern, irrespective of taxpayer loss. The inquiry was also to examine governance controls and procedure, the performance of senior managers and allegations of unusual share trading. Interest rates and loan extensions, which resulted in a concession of some €4m, were also to be investigated.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan set up the inquiry after weeks of controversy and Dáil rows. At the time, Mr Noonan said there was no evidence of wrong-doing - but he wanted to ensure the taxpayer did not feel wronged.

The issue of itself is not a popular theme. But this development is a stick gifted to the Opposition to bash the Government's reputation at a time when they could do without such problems.

Moves are afoot to address the issue and give Judge Cregan the powers he needs. But we will hear the words "horse, stable and door" in the coming days?

Irish Independent

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