Saturday 17 February 2018

Battle now on to persuade the key players to engage

Jean-Claude Trichet
Jean-Claude Trichet
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

The Banking Inquiry now has both the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its sights. But it faces a battle to persuade both to give the level of detailed evidence that it requires.

It remains to be seen whether the inquiry's efforts to persuade the ECB to engage with it will bear fruit.

Committee chairman Ciaran Lynch told this newspaper yesterday that the legal advice it had received was that it could use whatever evidence former ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet gives when he addresses the Institute for International and European Affairs at the end of this month. That is promising.

In addition, the inquiry is also hoping to persuade the ECB's vice-president, Vitor Constancio, to engage with the Oireachtas Finance Committee as a substitute for the Banking Inquiry itself.

It seems ECB President Mario Draghi wrote to the inquiry about a month ago, again stating that, while the Frankfurt-based body is not accountable to national parliaments or a parliamentary inquiry, it does have a record of engaging with parliamentary committees.

In light of this, Mr Lynch has written to his counterpart on the Finance Committee, Liam Twomey, seeking his support.

As a number of TDs sit on both committees, it is hoped that perhaps the Finance Committee could be a possible venue where Mr Constancio might be comfortable to engage.

But even if the Banking Inquiry is successful in persuading the ECB to engage with it in a meaningful way, that won't be the end of the battle.

Because then the inquiry must turn its attention to Washington and shift its focus on to the IMF.

The comments made by Ajai Chopra concerning the intervention by Mr Trichet in the lead up to the bailout are hugely important.

They tell us what the vast majority of people in Ireland already believe.

But, coming directly from a figure that played such an important role in the crafting of the bailout, they are striking.

Mr Lynch told this newspaper that initial contact was made by the inquiry with the IMF in December, and the reply was non-committal, claiming that the fund was unavailable to attend at that time. That isn't a good starting point for the inquiry's campaign to persuade the global lender to put forward a representative.

By forcing a parliamentary inquiry to jump through such elaborate hoops to facilitate it, the ECB has done itself a disservice.

The IMF has the opportunity to cast itself in a different light and engage in a constructive way with the inquiry as soon as possible.

And Mr Chopra, while no longer a member of the Washington-based fund, should be one of the first to be requested to attend.

Irish Independent

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