Friday 24 November 2017

Noonan to meet Opposition to set IBRC probe terms

Michael Noonan: pressure to extend scope of IBRC inquiry
Michael Noonan: pressure to extend scope of IBRC inquiry
John Downing

John Downing

Finance Minister Michael Noonan will today begin efforts to get the planned Commission of Inquiry into the IBRC established as quickly as possible.

Mr Noonan is set to meet Opposition politicians to discuss the draft terms of reference he published last Wednesday as he announced a senior judge will examine the way IBRC dealt with loans to up to 40 large business operators, including businessman Denis O'Brien.

Mr Noonan is due to meet Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at 7pm and other meetings are expected with Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, and Independent TD Catherine Murphy, who has taken the lead in posing questions on the issue of IBRC.

Already, political sources have indicated that Mr Noonan is under pressure from the opposition to extend the scope of the inquiry - while also providing at least an interim report before the end of this year. The interim report arises from fears by some in Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin that a general election may be called before the IBRC report is published.

Yesterday, the former IBRC chief executive Mike Aynsley told a Sunday newspaper that the former bank had written off a total of €1bn for around 40 major borrowers. Mr Aynsley also insisted that one assertion made by Independent TD Catherine Murphy was "grossly inaccurate".

Mr Aynsley said it was wrong to say Denis O'Brien was charged just 1.25pc interest on his loans. But he would not say what the interest rate actually was.

Labour TD Pat Rabbitte accused the opposition of "trying to have it both ways" in seeking an early report and an inquiry of wider scope. The former leader and Communications Minister said it was not up to the whim of the Finance Minister to decide when an inquiry, once set in train, could actually end.

"Whichever judge decides to do the job, he will do the job, as we know from previous experience, in accordance with how he will do it," Mr Rabbitte told RTÉ's The Week in Politics programme. Mr Rabbitte also said he did not believe the assertion by Deputy Murphy that IBRC had applied an interest rate of 1.25pc.

Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris said the Government and Opposition needed to strike a balance on the scope of the inquiry. "We cannot have an extremely wide ranging inquiry which is complete in a very short period of time. We have to take a reasonable view," Deputy Harris said.

The Dáil returns tomorrow for what will certainly be a stormy session. Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended the Government decision not to interrupt a week-long break in sittings, as the High Court adjudicated on TDs' privilege to say things in the chamber free of the threat of legal action.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin TDs say they are angry at the way the Government dismissed calls to recall the Dáil last week. Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin has said the Government treated citizens with contempt in the matter.

Mr Martin is also asserting that he was "misled" in the Government replies he got in the course of debates on the issue over the past two months. The Government has countered that the issue related mainly to an honest error arising from mislaid documents.

Irish Independent

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