Coalition has botched promised banking probe
IT'S six years since our banking system fell asunder, ultimately contributing to the loss of national economic sovereignty and bringing considerable hardship to tens of thousands of families across the nation. Along with promises of "new politics" in the February 2011 General Election, this Fine Gael-Labour Coalition promised us a parliamentary inquiry into the whole banking debacle which cost taxpayers €64bn. But the reality has not entirely matched the rhetoric here, as in the case of other promises.
Granted, the loss of the October 2011 referendum which aimed to extend parliamentary committee powers of inquiry was a reverse for the Government's bank inquiry plans. It took some time to bring in special legislation last autumn to fill the gap which resulted.
But while the inquiry preparations were inching forward, some serious unforced errors by the Government cast a dark shadow over a process which has not even got off the ground. The Taoiseach's comments a year ago about the inquiry probing an "axis of collusion" between some in Fianna Fail (FF) and Anglo Irish Bank were deeply unhelpful and played to FF's warnings about "a party political agenda".
The utter mess made by the two government parties of a simple job – to nominate two senators to the inquiry committee – was compounded by the Taoiseach's effective admission in the Dail chamber that the Government must have a majority on the inquiry committee. It raised questions about the independence of the inquiry process as something entirely controlled by parliament and free of government involvement.
When the Technical Group of 16 TDs meet tomorrow their attitude on whether or not to nominate another of their number to the seat, which independent TD Stephen Donnelly is resigning in protest, will be very significant. It has to be said that if they decide not to nominate a replacement for Mr Donnelly the inquiry will be further impaired.
It will be a make-or-break week for this Oireachtas banking inquiry as a big question mark hangs over its future. The events of the past week have brought considerable discredit to the already embattled Fine Gael-Labour Coalition.
The Government has a heck of a lot of ground to make up on this issue and it is not at all clear that it can succeed.
'EDUCATION PASSPORT' CAN HELP SCHOOLS AND STUDENTS
AS another school exam season draws towards the latter stages, debate continues about the future of the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate points race. The Junior Cert proposals will be given more focus in coming weeks when Education Minister Ruairi Quinn sits down with teacher unions to discuss their concerns about changes ahead.
These state exams are often portrayed as "trial by ordeal" with young people's futures hanging on how they perform in a fraught exam hall over a short few hours. The Junior Cert reforms being proposed are intended to end rote-learning, although teachers remain to be convinced about the wisdom of the change.
Today our education editor brings news of another development, with children bringing an "Education Passport" with them as they move from primary to second level. The passport is coming soon, as it will be optional this autumn and compulsory from the start of the school year 2015/2016.
At the moment pupils leaving sixth-class carry a document detailing their academic performance, personality and attendance, along with information on special educational needs. The new system will bring two other documents – one completed by the pupil, and the other by their parents or guardians.
The initiative is an effort to identify things the children enjoy, their personal interests beyond the classroom, and outlining areas where the child may at times need extra support. It has the potential to give the second-level school to which pupils are going much valuable information to benefit the pupils as they head into a new phase of their education.