Tuesday 20 March 2018

Editorial: Bank Inquiry must unearth the truth

'Performance and pay should always be linked'
'Performance and pay should always be linked'


The Oireachtas Banking Inquiry began work last December with an abundance of critics and disadvantages. Among other difficulties, the work involves walking a legal tightrope at some speed to meet a November 2015 reporting deadline.

Since its first hearing, the seven TDs and four senators have worked creditably through endless hours, posing many thoughtful questions on behalf of the Irish people.

Much of the focus of its work is around the fateful night of September 29 and 30 in 2008, when the Government decided to guarantee deposits in all major banks up to a maximum of €100,000.

Many of the subsequent decisions taken in response to the bank system collapse were a function of the events of that fateful evening. But we are looking at a very complex set of factors and relations involving the principals in the Irish bank system, the Irish government and administration in Dublin, and their counterparts within the EU system in Brussels, Frankfurt and other centres of European decision-making.

Next Thursday, the inquiry faces a crucial meeting as the former Secretary General of the Finance Department, Kevin Cardiff, will give evidence. And already there are strong signals that Mr Cardiff will raise questions about the versions of events previously given by other key witnesses.

It is at this point that we may get to assess the true worth of the inquiry. It will be the TDs' and senators' difficult task to parse and evaluate all the evidence they are given. Testimony we hear this week may require the recall of some witnesses to hear more fully about their memory of events.

It will be a most testing time for banking inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch and his colleagues. We trust they will proceed with cautious but steely determination.

We need a productive and decisive fact-finding parliamentary inquiry to help us understand why Ireland had a phoney economic boom followed by an all-too-real bust. An effective banking inquiry is important to help us find out why Ireland came to have a "lost economic decade" from which we are only now emerging.

We need these things to avoid a repeat of that dangerous folly for the coming generations of Irish people.

Truly free education would benefit all of us

We are just 15 months away from the 50th anniversary of Donogh O'Malley's announcement on "free" secondary education. But in too many ways we remain far from realising that wonderful ideal.

In fact, even primary education remains a costly strain on many parents. If you doubt that, just tot up the cost of stationery, bus passes and school books. If you like, you can use the back of the envelope your child brings home telling you about the "voluntary" contributions.

The children's charity Barnardos is launching a new campaign to have the taxpayer pick up the tab of €103m per year for the nation's half a million primary school pupils. Surveys the charity has been conducting for 10 years show that parents pay an average of €185 per year, per pupil, to fund these primary school extras.

Let's recall that primary schooling is the bedrock of every citizen's education. The more equality of opportunity we can put into things at this stage, the better the likelihood of more equality across the board in society.

And an effective education system is central to our economic well-being as a nation.

Irish Independent

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