AG under scrutiny as Dukes 'concerned' by delay in Siteserv probe
The Government was rallying around Attorney General Máire Whelan last night amid questions over whether she should have foreseen the crisis facing the Commission of Investigation into IBRC.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton rushed to express "full confidence" in Ms Whelan, while Finance Minister Michael Noonan expressed surprise that Judge Brian Cregan didn't feel he had the power to provide a meaningful report.
Ministers will today discuss whether emergency legislation will be required to allow Mr Justice Cregan complete his probe into 37 different transactions by IBRC, including the sale of contracting firm Siteserv to Denis O'Brien's Millington.
Government sources said the future of the commission "hinges" on what advice Ms Whelan brings to the Cabinet but they "hope there is a legal remedy by way of legislation".
"Nothing is guaranteed because of the legal technicalities but it's hoped that legislation can be brought forward in the coming days," said a source.
The inquiry has stalled because the judge has said that he doesn't have the legal authority to investigate "write-offs" by the former Anglo Irish Bank.
He believes the powers allowed under the 2004 laws used to set up the commission do not extend to overruling confidentiality issues and therefore he cannot access the full range of documents required.
Mr Noonan said his department had concluded that confidentiality clauses could be overruled by the judge in the public interest.
"It was a matter for the judge to adjudicate and he has adjudicated now," Mr Noonan told reporters in Brussels.
"He has adjudicated in a way that I didn't expect, but he has made the adjudication," he said.
The Department of Finance has handed over all documents requested by the judge without any redactions.
Last night the former chairman of IBRC Alan Dukes issued a statement saying he was "deeply concerned" by the delay as the right of the bank's directors to their good names was being prejudiced.
He said there was a danger the impasse would "persist for a lengthy period, despite the fact that not a single shred of evidence has been produced to stand up the various allegations and innuendoes circulated during the last six months".
Mr Dukes added that the directors were willing to co-operate fully with the inquiry but would need "unrestricted access to all documents" relating to the deals being investigated. "Without such full and unrestricted access, the directors' legal right to fair process cannot be ensured," he said.
Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy said it was "imperative" for the public to know if the Attorney General failed to foresee "what appears to have been a very obvious legal impediment to the inquiry".
"It is extremely difficult to believe that the foremost legal mind in the country did not anticipate problems arising in relation to confidentiality and access to the banking data of debtors of IBRC," she said.
However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "I have full confidence in the Attorney General."
Speaking in London Mr Kenny said the Government would work with opposition parties to ensure the inquiry got back on track.
Asked if she still had confidence in the Attorney General, Tánaiste Joan Burton replied: "Yes. Why wouldn't I?
"She is someone who has done amazing legal work for this Government on a range of issues."