Bank Inquiry puts finance chiefs in the clear on crisis
The final report of the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry is expected to clear the Department of Finance and its most senior officials from taking, or sharing in the blame for the systemic failure of Ireland's banking system.
The Sunday Independent understands that none of the current and former department officials who appeared before the Banking Inquiry have been included in the cohort of witnesses circulated with elements of its draft report for their response.
Among those who gave evidence to the inquiry were five of the department's former secretaries general.
Four of these - John Hurley, Tom Considine, David Doyle and Kevin Cardiff - held the role in the period from 2000 to 2010 during which Ireland went from boom to bust.
While much of the media's reporting has suggested that up to 70 witnesses have been given copies of the inquiry's findings which relate to them specifically, a source familiar with the matter told this newspaper that the actual number of recipients is far lower.
Those witnesses who have been asked to respond to the inquiry's findings in relation to their actions leading up to the financial crisis have been given until midnight on December 28 to make their submissions.
It is understood that the affected parties have been advised that they are only permitted to comment on the paragraphs in the draft report which mention them specifically.
They are not allowed to comment on other elements of the report based on their belief that it is relevant to them.
Witnesses have been advised that any unauthorised disclosure of the draft report's content will leave them liable upon conviction to a five-year term of imprisonment or a fine of up to €500,000.
Former Taoisigh Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern and former finance minister Charlie McCreevy are among those understood to have received copies of the draft report for their response.
The issue of apportioning blame to Mr Cowen and Mr McCreevy for Ireland's economic collapse had proved to be a major bone of contention for the members of the Banking Inquiry as they sought to finalise the report two weeks ago.
In an initial draft, the two former finance ministers had been singled out for particular condemnation.