Friday 30 September 2016

We must move on after inquiry

Published 28/06/2015 | 02:30

This week, the former Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, is to appear as a witness, to be followed by the much anticipated evidence of his successor and former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, who is also scheduled to account for his stewardship as leader the week after.
This week, the former Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, is to appear as a witness, to be followed by the much anticipated evidence of his successor and former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, who is also scheduled to account for his stewardship as leader the week after.

The Banking Inquiry will this week enter a critical and potentially deeply political phase, with long-awaited evidence to be finally provided by key political figures during the boom and ruinous bust.

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To date, the inquiry has blown hot and cold: the early stages were largely uneventful with the evidence, in particular, of several bankers proving to be far from satisfactory; similarly, the account given by the former European Central Bank President, Jean-Claude Trichet, has only served to further confuse the issues involved and, if anything, has further added to the cynicism of a weary and austerity-fatigued citizenry.

However, the recent appearance before the inquiry of senior civil servants has shed some much needed light on events during what was by any yardstick an extraordinary time with far-reaching consequences for the country.

This week, the former Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, is to appear as a witness, to be followed by the much anticipated evidence of his successor and former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, who is also scheduled to account for his stewardship as leader the week after.

Another former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who held that office throughout the Celtic Tiger years, to resign just as the economic crisis hit, is also scheduled to give evidence in July, as are Enda Kenny, Richard Bruton, Pat Rabbitte and Joan Burton, leaders of the opposition and finance spokespeople at the time.

To the credit of the Banking Inquiry to date, its members have managed to steer a relatively careful course and avoid overt displays of party political partisanship, while seeking to shed some light on the events under investigation.

However, with the inquiry now due to enter a phase to hold to account those politicians, in office and opposition, members may be tempted to score political points ahead of a fuller illumination which the citizens so deserve.

It is to be hoped, indeed expected, that the inquiry will resist that temptation. It is also to be expected that the political witnesses themselves will give a full account of their actions at the time, without fear or favour, so as to fully explain and to put in context decisions which were and were not made.

The inquiry will shortly afterwards adjourn for summer and resume in September, when several former bankers are pencilled in to give evidence. These events will coincide with preparations for the Budget, to be followed at some point shortly afterwards by a general election.

The evidence to be provided, by those in office and in opposition, may influence to an extent the intention of voters in that election, which was always anticipated to happen. Politicians can not complain when voters are still feeling the effects of decisions made during the period concerned, and indeed subsequently.

That said, when the inquiry has concluded its deliberations and issued its report, drawing upon all of the evidence heard, the time will have come for the country as a whole to draw a line under and move on from this entirely debilitating period, with hard lessons learned, certainly, but also with a renewed determination to rebuild the country with enthusiasm and in a manner befitting a modern republic of the European Union.

Sunday Independent

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