Saturday 24 February 2018

Honohan doubts whether 'we really need inquiry'

Central Bank governor suggests smaller reports could yield better results

Patrick Honohan,the Governor of the Central Bank, arriving for the meeting of the Oireachtas
Committee on Finance and the Public Service at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Patrick Honohan,the Governor of the Central Bank, arriving for the meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Service at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Laura Noonan

CENTRAL Bank governor Patrick Honohan has questioned plans for a Commission of Inquiry into the banking collapse, suggesting that a series of reports and public hearings might achieve a better outcome.

The comments, made at an Oireachtas Committee hearing yesterday, come a week after Professor Honohan published a damning report into the fiscal and regulatory failures that brought Ireland's financial system to its knees.

The Government is planning to explore the issues raised in the report with a commission of Inquiry into the banking debacle, but Prof Honohan yesterday expressed serious doubts about that course of action.

"My difficulty is in understanding what the motivation, nature and goal of an inquiry would be ... I'm saying let's push that idea back and see whether we really need it," he urged, pointing to the wealth of information that had already been uncovered by his tome on the banking collapse.

Similar reports into individual banks could be commissioned by independent authors, he suggested, while public hearings could be used to explore the "motivations" of key actors in various events.

That approach could be cheaper and faster than the mooted commission and could also yield better results than an inquiry whose purpose is "not really fully flushed out", Prof Honohan suggested.

Populist

Prof Honohan also expressed concerns that giving into populist appetite for a public inquiry could ultimately limit the quality of the information that any investigation could uncover.

"If you want to get to grips with factual matters, you can make a lot of progress in private and that's the most effective way," he said, adding that people are likely to be less frank in a public arena.

He stressed, however, that it was important not to have "a sense that in some way something is being suppressed" and sources close to him dismissed suggestions he was looking to have the inquiry "long-fingered".

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said they would "consider" Prof Honohan's comments, along with any recommendations made by the Finance Committee later in the summer.

Irish Independent

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