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Sunday 19 January 2020

Former minister's private papers 'crucial' for any inquiry

Lenihan's records are essential if we are to understand how that crucial decision was taken in 2008

Daniel McConnell and Tom Lyons

BRIAN Lenihan's tragic passing has denied any inquiry the chance to hear first hand in public his full version of events.

As a result -- and as we reveal today -- moves are afoot to secure Lenihan's private papers. It is hoped that they will cast light on what exactly he knew about the state of the banks on the night of the guarantee and how that fateful decision was reached.

The Sunday Independent has confirmed that most of his ministerial papers were removed by him following the election defeat in March 2011 and taken to his home in west Dublin. Many of these papers include memos of government decisions, cabinet papers and a host of other "sensitive and confidential" letters.

But it was after his death on June 10, 2011, that Lenihan's personal effects from his Dail office were sorted by his special adviser Cathy Herbert and her colleague Maria Cosgrove.

Some books and other items were given to colleagues as mementos but all of Lenihan's papers were later returned to his wife Patricia, a Circuit Court judge.

There have been calls this weekend for these papers to be made available to any pending inquiry.

While it is understood that Lenihan never formally penned his own narrative of September 29, 2008, all his personal notes and memos from that time are seen as "critical" to any likely inquiry.

John McGuinness, chairman of the Dail's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has said Lenihan's papers are "critical" to any inquiry into how the decision to guarantee the banks was made.

He said: "Any inquiry must establish the facts; but to do that, we must have access to all the facts. These include the papers of former finance minister Brian Lenihan. We must determine what happened and these papers are of critical importance to that."

His call was echoed by several other members of the committee, which is about to present its proposal document for the inquiry to Government.

Dublin TD Paschal Donohoe said: "Full understanding cannot be achieved without full disclosure. The cost of that historic decision is clear but the reasons behind it still are not.

"The PAC needs access to everything to establish these reasons once and for all."

Fellow PAC member Eoghan Murphy said: "This is a sensitive issue, given Mr Lenihan's passing, but we must get access to his papers. They are incredibly important to finding out what exactly happened on the night of the guarantee."

But it is not just the politicians who wish to gain access to the Lenihan papers.

Bankrupt industrialist Sean Quinn is seeking access to the personal papers of the late finance minister as part of a fierce effort to prove that a substantial part of his loans of €2.8bn were advanced illegally to him by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), formerly Anglo Irish Bank.

The matter of Lenihan's papers is forming part of the ongoing legal battle between Quinn and IBRC and matters are this weekend at a "highly sensitive stage".

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