Monday 23 April 2018

Bank Inquiry split on blaming Cowen, McCreevy for crash

IN THE FIRING LINE: Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen
IN THE FIRING LINE: Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen
IN THE FIRING LINE: Charlie McCreevy

Kevin Doyle, Ronald Quinlan and Philip Ryan

Initial draft 'wanted to finger' former FF finance ministers.

The issue of apportioning blame to Brian Cowen and Charlie McCreevy for the economic collapse has proven to be one of the most contentious debates for the Banking Inquiry, which was still meeting last night.

An initial draft of the Inquiry's report had sought to single the two former finance ministers out for particular condemnation by suggesting they had ignored advice to take preventative action.

The Sunday Independent understands, however, that Fianna Fail's representatives on the committee, Michael McGrath and Marc MacSharry, objected strongly to the language being proposed.

Others members agreed to 'water down' the statements about Mr Cowen and Mr McCreevy in order to progress the section on the conduct of successive Fianna Fail governments in the period leading up to the country's economic collapse.

Under its terms of reference, the inquiry is precluded from making any adverse findings about individuals in the event that those findings are contested.

The deadline of January 28 set for the publication of the inquiry's final report meanwhile could be facing a further challenge following its receipt of correspondence from developer Michael O'Flynn.

The Cork-based businessman has warned the inquiry's members of his intention to issue legal proceedings in the event that they fail to afford him a formal right of reply to a statement issued by Nama in which the so-called 'bad bank' contradicts aspects of his sworn evidence.

In a letter sent on November 27 last to the inquiry's chairman Ciaran Lynch and copied to each member of the joint committee of investigation, Mr O'Flynn said he found it "remarkable" that the Banking Inquiry would allow the publication of Nama's 'Section 25' statement, which he noted "appears to be unsworn" on its website without seeking his response.

In its statement, Nama took issue with a number of aspects of Mr O'Flynn's sworn testimony to the inquiry.

Among the more serious matters which it disputes is the developer's evidence that the O'Flynn Group had been pressured by Nama to sell a property in London to a bidder for a price lower than had been offered by another bidder.

Mr O'Flynn has advised the inquiry that he has obtained legal advice which suggests that its decision to accept and publish Nama's statement on its website in isolation breaches the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Act 2013, is a breach of fair procedures and a breach of his Constitutional right requiring the application of fair procedures in relation to his evidence.

The developer has warned the members of the inquiry that he would "have no alternative but to issue proceedings against the joint committee and to seek an order of the High Court quashing any findings related to the relevant breach" should they fail to address his complaint in advance of publishing their final report.

Contacted for comment on the matter, a spokesman for the Banking Inquiry said: "The committee doesn't comment on correspondence with witnesses."

And in another development, the Sunday Independent has learned that the Oireachtas has offered to hold a review of the independent investigation into allegations of misconduct raised by the Banking Inquiry whistleblower. The whistleblower wrote to the inquiry this week demanding to have a report into their claims of serious failings within the inquiry withdrawn.

The individual, who first raised concerns using the Protected Disclosure legislation, has refuted the findings of an investigation by barrister Senan Allen, which ruled there was no basis to their allegations.

While whistleblowers are entitled to have investigations into their allegations reviewed under the Protected Disclosure Act, it is understood the individual has turned down this opportunity on the grounds that they found the initial inquiry to be unsatisfactory.

In a letter to Banking Inquiry members last week, the whistleblower offered to come before the committee to address queries relating to their allegations.

Sunday Independent

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