Saturday 17 March 2018

DPP blocks publication of statement by Drumm

Stand-off over whether to publish goes on all day

Former Anglo Irish Bank boss David Drumm
Former Anglo Irish Bank boss David Drumm
John Downing

John Downing

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has instructed the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry not to publish a controversial statement by former Anglo Irish Bank boss David Drumm.

The outcome followed a day-long stand-off between the committee and the DPP over publication of a statement from Mr Drumm.

Last night the committee members said they would seek fresh legal advice themselves and consider the issue at a special meeting this morning.

The DPP dramatically intervened yesterday to stop the publication, which had been cleared by the committee's own lawyers.

This followed an earlier DPP move preventing video-link evidence to the committee from Mr Drumm, who is in the USA after he refused to attend hearings in person.

For much of yesterday it remained unclear whether some or all of the statement might be published, or else blocked completely.

The drama continued behind the scenes as several witnesses - including former government ministers Mary Harney and John Gormley - gave evidence to the inquiry.

Last night it confirmed in a statement: "The Oireachtas Banking Inquiry has received the legal opinion from the Director of Public Prosecutions on the David Drumm statement provided to the Committee.

"The Committee has agreed not to publish the statement pending a full briefing from its own legal advisers."

In another irony, the disputed statement was already widely leaked and published in full on one website.

The statement may also raise questions about whether former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who was given a copy of Mr Drumm's statement, should be recalled or at least required to give an additional statement.

But it was understood, at all events, that this issue would not be dealt with until after the hearings have concluded in September.

The 11-member committee of TDs and senators met in private session twice yesterday to consider communications from the office of DPP Claire Loftus, raising concerns about their plan to publish the statement.

The DPP was insisting that at the very least, cuts must be made to Mr Drumm's written statement - with suggestions it may insist on blocking publication altogether.

Sources at Leinster House said there were more contacts with the DPP's office and the committee throughout the day and meetings continued until late last night.

The DPP's concerns relate to ongoing cases and investigations, but committee sources said many members strongly believed the statement did not present such problems.

The inquiry had already threatened to descend into farce this week after it emerged that Mr Drumm was refusing to appear before it in person and its members were divided on whether he should be allowed testify via video link.

The committee had already met for five hours on Tuesday to consider its next move after proposals to hear Mr Drumm by video link were abandoned on instruction from the DPP.

Then it confirmed that the video-hearing, which was originally pencilled in for yesterday afternoon, would not go ahead.

They did decide to accept Mr Drumm's written statement and planned to publish it.

However, that plan was scuppered when the DPP moved to block the publication yesterday morning. Some members said they were surprised by the intervention so quickly after the dispute over video evidence had seemingly been resolved.

The banker at the centre of the row has been in a self-imposed exile in Massachusetts since 2009 and has refused to return home voluntarily to be interviewed by gardaí investigating matters at Anglo.

A source close to the former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive said Mr Drumm was upset after it was "leaked" that he had offered to give evidence from the US via video link, rather than returning to Ireland.

And, for the first time, sources close to the bank inquiry process have conceded that the November 30 deadline for the final report may have to be extended. This is due to the review of whistleblower allegations by senior counsel, Senan Allen, which may take some time to complete.

Irish Independent

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