Tuesday 27 September 2016

Why can't Oireachtas get inquiries right?

Published 28/07/2015 | 02:30

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny

When the Government sought to overturn the Supreme Court decision in Abbeylara by referendum four years ago, the electorate said: "No, thanks."

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It fell in part because the planned legislation underpinning the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum called into question whether any person subject to an inquiry would have recourse to the courts if they believed their rights had been breached.

The intervention by eight former Attorneys General also dissuaded voters from granting powers to politicians to making adverse findings of fact against persons.

Politicians routinely appeal to the electorate to trust them to conduct political inquiries in the public interest. But with the notable exception, perhaps, of the DIRT Inquiry, chaired by the late Jim Mitchell of Fine Gael, politicians here have proved time and time again why they cannot be trusted to conduct the type of parliamentary inquiries that seem to succeed in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

The kindest thing that can be said about the latest controversy to beset the Banking Inquiry is that the Oireachtas team led by Ciarán Lynch TD probably did not expect former Anglo Irish Bank boss David Drumm to offer to testify via videolink from the United States.

In his absence, Mr Drumm - his presumption of innocence intact - is facing being charged with criminal offences and refuses to travel home and face the music. The notion that he should be entertained at all by the inquiry in such circumstances is risible, regardless of what legal advice was sought or relied upon.

From Taoiseach Enda Kenny's staggering "axis of collusion" remarks more than a year ago, to the spectacle of former ECB President Jean Claude Trichet giving evidence from Kilmainham Hospital, from whistleblower allegations to partisanship, the Banking Inquiry is at risk of becoming a source of public ridicule.

That is too high a price to pay: financial losses can be restored, public confidence is much harder to regain.

Irish Independent

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