Friday 20 April 2018

Banking inquiry dramatically suspended after ex finance minister Charlie McCreevy refuses to discuss property bubble

Former finance minister Charlie McCreevy
Former finance minister Charlie McCreevy

Ailish O'Hora, Daniel McConnell and Clodagh Sheehy

The banking inquiry was dramatically suspended today after ex finance minister Charlie McCreevy refused to discuss the property bubble.

Despite constant quizzing from Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty, Mr McCreevy said he had set an edict for himself on what he would discuss and that was limited to his time as fnance minister - that term ended in 2004.

Mr Doherty accused him of avoiding answering the questions before requesting a suspension of the inquiry.

Mr Doherty asked the former minister if he believed there had been a property bubble. After some lengthy exchanges, Mr McCreevy said he was not aware of one during his term which ended in 2004.

But Chairman Ciaran Lynch directed Mr McCreevy to answer the question, which he deemed fair, but Mr McCreevy declined saying he had refused to comment on matters beyond his time in office since leaving public life.

He said he was not willing to break that self-imposed edict, to the evident frustration of Mr Doherty.

Mr Doherty then called on Mr Lynch to adjourn the meeting to clarify the legal position as to Mr McCreevy’s refusal to answer.

When the committee reconvened, Chairman Lynch formally told Mr McCreevy that should he continue to refuse to answer questions, he could he liable to criminal sanction under the terms of the Inquiry's Act.

He said the committee had the power to recall Mr McCreevy if it was deemed necessary and it had the power to broaden its terms of questioning if required.

Mr Lynch also said the committee had the power to conclude in its final report that Mr McCreevy had failed to cooperate with it.

Under questioning again, Mr McCreevy agreed that spectacular growth in house prices between 2003-2007 could be described as a bubble.

Mr McCreevy is being challenged on his handling of the economy in the boom years, which some critics argue sowed the seeds of the economic and banking crash of autumn 2008 that cost Irish taxpayers €64bn.

Earlier today Ann Nolan, Second Secretary General, Department of Finance and Donal McNally, former Second Secretary General, Department of Finance gave evidence.

Mr McCreevy, the former Kildare TD and EU Commissioner will be asked about some of the many mantras attributed to him in the boom years notably: "When I have it, I spend it, and when I don't, I don't."

He is expected to refer to the Special Savings Incentive Accounts (SSIAs) and the creation of the National Pension Fund as prudent initiatives during a time of strong growth. Mr McCreevy was finance minister from 1997 until 2004.

Irish Independent

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