Wednesday 21 March 2018

Taoiseach wants to see FF stitched up – and he'll get his wish

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin
John Downing

John Downing

IT will be extremely difficult – perhaps even impossible - to keep party politics out of the parliamentary inquiry into the banking fiasco.

That blindingly obvious conclusion emerged rather early in the Dail proceedings as the Taoiseach tore into Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

In summary, Enda Kenny said the forthcoming Oireachtas inquiry would have to look into what he called the "axis of collusion" between Anglo Irish Bank and Fianna Fail which had damaged so many lives in the false property boom.

That assertion could be argued as fair ball. But when Independent TD Mattie McGrath followed by picking flaws in the Government's plan for this parliamentary inquiry, Mr Kenny could not resist reminding Mr McGrath that he too had been a long-time Fianna Fail member.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams highlighted the slow pace of criminal investigations into the Anglo Irish Bank debacle. But he also managed a few kicks against Fianna Fail – which, of course, his party hopes to oust as opposition kingpins.

Mr Martin (pictured) was hurling uphill and into a rather stiff breeze. He was, after all, a Fianna Fail heavy-hitter through the phoney property boom and the interlinked and lethal rise of Anglo.

The cosmetics of the FF-Anglo relationship do not look great. But Fianna Fail insists that its former ministers who were in office in summer and autumn 2008, when the bank tragedy was being played out, will turn out for a parliamentary inquiry.

And the Fianna Fail leader has some compelling points in his favour as he argues the case for an independent judicial inquiry.

He did not cite the danger of the Oireachtas inquiry becoming party-politicised. He did not need to yesterday afternoon as he faced a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein pincer movement.

But Mr Martin did effectively conjure up the powerlessness of an Oireachtas inquiry to deal with those bank bosses who, through this newspaper, we have heard express their worldview and their level of respect for the nation's institutions.

The reality is that this will be the fifth inquiry into the banking debacle. This time, we need names named and fingers pointed. And a parliamentary inquiry will not be empowered to do this.

The Fianna Fail leader was aware that talk of judicial inquiries can invoke horrified public reactions harking back to years of tribunal delays and the creation of millionaire lawyers at taxpayers' expense.

But he cited draft legislation, originally prepared by former justice minister Michael McDowell, for a slimmed-down express inquiry model which could easily be revived and enacted. Nevertheless, Mr Martin's battle is lost. For better or worse, the Taoiseach's determination to carry out an Oireachtas banking inquiry will become a reality.

Irish Independent

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