Sunday 25 September 2016

So, which one of these will we have first: the IBRC inquiry report or a general election?

Published 05/06/2015 | 02:30

'It will be over by Christmas." No. That was not what Finance Minister Michael Noonan said when he cited a December deadline for completion of the new Commission of Inquiry to examine IBRC bank's transactions with Denis O'Brien and some other major business players.

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Mr Noonan's 40-plus years in public life tell him that speed and official inquiries do not often coincide.

In saying that, we are not even going to consider the Flood / Mahon Tribunal which ran from 1997 to 2012. Nor the Moriarty Tribunal of 1997 to 2011. This is the new improved model known as a commission of inquiry, set up by legislation in 2004.

We will soon have three such commissions on the go. One is looking at the mother and baby homes in past decades, and is chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy.

The other is chaired by Judge Nial Fennelly and is examining covert tape recordings at garda stations for over 30 years. It is also examining the events surrounding the departure of Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan from his job in March 2014.

We are told the Callinan portion of that inquiry is close to completion. But over a year after it was established we are still waiting on an outcome about an event which involved perhaps about 10 people maximum.

That surely puts the timescale for examining the workings of IBRC bank, with its acres of densely printed loan agreements and other legal documents, into context.

The pattern of setting up these inquiries is by now more than familiar.

The Government usually resists until the 11th hour, seeing such a step as a poor reflection upon their overall stewardship. Then they relent and hope the inquiry process will "park" the attendant political controversy for some time to come.

This time all eyes are on the completion date. Yesterday we had Health Minister Leo Varadkar telling us that this one should be over quickly.

But with classic Varadkar candour, he also conceded it could drag on. If the as yet un-named judge in charge requested an extension of time, how could the Government of the day refuse?

The Tanaiste Joan Burton put the emphasis on it finishing on time. But she also admitted things could drag on.

The very latest date for a general election is April 9, 2016. The smart money is on an election before a report from this latest commission of inquiry.

Irish Independent

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