Monday 23 October 2017

Bankers 'won't be quizzed at planned inquiry'

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE Government is considering a banking inquiry that would question politicians and officials – but not bankers.

The coalition is conscious of not doing anything to jeopardise criminal cases pending.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said yesterday the public wanted to see prosecutions.

Ministers are weighing up an Oireachtas inquiry that would deliberately avoid calling banking witnesses, to avoid prejudicing any prosecutions in the pipeline, the Irish Independent has learned.

Instead, the inquiry would call in former ministers and senior civil servants from the Departments of Finance and Taoiseach.

"There is a genuine concern, we don't want to do anything that jeopardises prosecutions. So maybe you would just focus on the political and regulatory figures from that time," a minister told the Irish Independent.

The option would be open to call in bankers after court cases are completed.

The inquiry would be broken down into different sections, which would allow different aspects of the banking crisis to be examined.

The breakdown would include a module on the banking practices at the time, the regulatory response to the crisis and the political response and issues surrounding the bank guarantee.

Sources said anyone who may be before the courts could be called once their cases were finished or modules could be arranged so that anyone before the courts would not be called until the inquiry was in its final stages.

Mr Varadkar said people wanted to see prosecutions arising from the banking crisis.

"In the hierarchy of what people want, prosecutions are what they want to see but I think a bank inquiry is important as well because we do need to understand better what happened in Ireland between the run on Northern Rock and the day the banks were nationalised.

"The only way that we can find that out is really to question in public the politicians involved at the time and the public authorities, such as people working in the central bank and the financial regulator, as well as the bankers," he said.

PROSECUTIONS

"The most important thing is that nothing that happens in a bank inquiry should jeopardise prosecutions."

The head of the bank workers' union has called for a "comprehensive inquiry" into the causes of the banking crisis so that those responsible "can be held to account".

Speaking at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' biennial conference in Belfast, the Irish Bank Officials Association's Larry Broderick said it was remarkable that, after five years, it had taken the Irish Independent to "wake up this country" about the need for inquiry.

"We want to know what happened and who is responsible. And the trade union movement must be to the fore in ensuring that inquiry protects taxpayers and our members," he said.

Speaking after Ulster Bank announced job losses of up to 1,800 workers, Mr Broderick said senior bankers were allowed to walk away with 'Rolls Royce' pensions but with no accountability.

"Enough is enough, this must stop," he said.

"9,000 jobs have been lost in this industry since 2008 and it is estimated there will be a further 2,500 jobs lost over the next two-and-a-half years," he said. In addition, there had been an attack on their pay, pensions and terms of conditions of employment, he said.

Irish Independent

Also in Business