Monday 20 November 2017

ECB refuses request for officials to appear in front of Oireachtas Banking Inquiry

ECB president Mario Draghi
ECB president Mario Draghi
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The European Central Bank (ECB) has refused a request for its officials to appear in front of the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry.

The ECB had previously indicated that its Vice President Vítor Constâncio would engage in an “informal exchange of views” with the inquiry  about the events that led to the banking collapse.

It had been anticipated that the ECB would appear in front of the Inquiry at a neutral location and not in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Jean Claude Trichet, the former President of the ECB, appeared before the inquiry in April at a venue in Kilmainham.

However, the prospect of the ECB sending a representative was thrown into serious doubt earlier this year following comments made by Committee chairman Ciaran Lynch.

The ECB felt that comments made by Mr Lynch at the Trichet hearing implied that any information provided by the ECB would be categorised as evidence rather than part of an “informal exchange of views”.

In a letter to MEP Marian Harkin in July, ECB President Mario Draghi wrote:

“Recent developments, in particular statements made by the chairman of the joint committee of inquiry, suggested that the necessary clear separation between an exchange of views and the work of the committee of inquiry could not be guaranteed.

“Under these circumstances, accepting the invitation would have amounted to the ECB de facto participating in the inquiry and hence discharging accountability to the Oireachtas.”

It’s now emerged today that efforts to engage the ECB have failed.

In a statement, Mr Lynch described the response as “unfortunate” and “regrettable”.

He added:

“While the ECB is outside the Irish jurisdiction and beyond the Committee’s powers of compellability, we did have an expectation that it would assist us in our work. The response is disappointing given that the Committee made every effort to accommodate the ECB and also to facilitate it in reviewing and responding to statements and evidence given at our public hearings which referenced the role and influence of the ECB.

“It is unfortunate and unsatisfactory that ECB has chosen not to engage with the Committee. A response and engagement from the ECB would have added to our final report and its stance is therefore regrettable.”

Public hearings at the Banking Inquiry will conclude next week.

Among the witnesses due to appear are Finance Mnister Michael Noonan and former IMF member Ajai Chopra. Mr Chopra was responsible for the design and monitoring of Ireland's financial bailout programme.

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