Tuesday 20 August 2019

50/50 chance the Banking Inquiry will never report

Committee members agree to start afresh after row over draft

Socialist TD Joe Higgins said it was 'unlikely' he would sign off on the final report even after it was amended
Socialist TD Joe Higgins said it was 'unlikely' he would sign off on the final report even after it was amended
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The controversial Banking Inquiry was saved from the brink of collapse yesterday, but there is still a "50/50 chance" it will not produce a final report.

Frustrated inquiry members met for six hours yesterday afternoon to discuss the fate of the embattled investigation into the collapse of the Irish economy.

Major concerns were raised by members ahead of the crunch meeting over the draft report compiled by the inquiry's investigation.

However, after what was a described as a "long and difficult" meeting, members agreed to allow investigators to "start afresh" and compile a brand new report.

"We will give it a go but there is no certainty that there will be a final report - I'd say there is a 50/50 chance," a committee source said.

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy and Labour senator Susan O'Keeffe will head up a 'report finalisation team' which will comprise of Oireachtas investigators and members' parliamentary assistants.

There will be a "root and branch" review of the draft report and those involved expect major changes.

The team will bring a progress report to the committee on Tuesday.

"It is a crucial time for the inquiry and all of us are committed to getting a report out by deadline," Mr Murphy told the Sunday Independent.

Fianna Fail TD Michael McGrath said it was "imperative" that the inquiry completed its work. "Setting up a Banking Inquiry in the final year of an Oireachtas term was always risky and trying to agree on a final report with 11 members with varying political views was always going to be challenging."

But Socialist TD Joe Higgins said it was "unlikely" he would sign off on the final report even after it was amended. He is preparing to publish an alternative report based on the committee's hearing and evidence.

"The present report is unamendable and it hasn't taken on board any of the principles of the Left through the analysis that we brought to bear on the inquiry," he said. "There is no way in the world I could sign off on the present draft and it is extremely unlikely that I will be able to sign off on any report."

Concerns were expressed about the report last week, with some members insisting it was "not fit for purpose".

Members were also frustrated with the lack of time available to review the draft before its publication which brought the inquiry to crisis point.

They were given just seven days to examine the 700-page report on the banking crisis and any amendments must be submitted by today. They were permitted to examine the report from last Monday until yesterday for 12 hours each day.

Under strict supervision, which included handing over their mobile phones to Oireachtas staff, TDs and senators were allowed review the report and make notes.

The report is understood to have found the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator had sufficient powers to act on stability risks in the financial sector but failed to act.

It found bank governance and management was inadequate during the Celtic Tiger years and recommends better reporting on business risks.

One source said former Taoiseach Brian Cowen gets a "kicking" in the report, but "not to any great extent".

It says the Government should have contacted the European Central Bank before the bank guarantee.

Sunday Independent

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