The Central Bank's inquiry into the stewardship of the collapsed Irish Nationwide Building Society has ground to a halt again after its former boss, Michael Fingleton, informed the inquiry he was unable to attend due to ill health.
Hearings were due to resume on January 9, but the inquiry has been repeatedly postponed since then. The Irish Independent has established the lengthy adjournment is a result of Mr Fingleton's poor health.
It is understood the high-profile banker, who turned 80 last week, informed the inquiry of a medical issue just before hearings were scheduled to resume and sources said he remains in a frail condition.
It is now unclear when the inquiry will reconvene.
A private session is due to be held today after which the Central Bank is expected to unveil a revised schedule of public hearings. Sources said the inquiry's three-person panel, led by solicitor Marian Shanley, had hoped to reconvene on February 6.
But Mr Fingleton's continued ill-health leaves the Central Bank in a quandary, according to legal experts, as without a legal representative to stand in for him, the inquiry's scope is likely to be severely curtailed.
The Central Bank first launched an investigation into INBS's failure in 2010, after taxpayers were faced with a cleanup bill of €5.4bn.
The inquiry was launched six years later but only started substantive hearings last month, partly due to a number of legal challenges. In January 2017 Mr Fingleton, who led INBS for 38 years and retired in 2009 with a €30m pension, attempted to halt the inquiry in the High Court. The claim was unsuccessful, as was a subsequent appeal.
Mr Fingleton has so far opted to forego legal representation in his dealings with the inquiry, which has no power to award costs to any of the executives it is examining.
However, each faces a possible fine of €500,000 and may have costs awarded against them. After hearing the opening statements from the five former executives, the inquiry was due to move on to witness evidence, with the former financial regulator Patrick Neary among 27 experts due to appear before the panel.