Thursday 21 November 2019

Cowen finally gets invitation to appear at bank inquiry

Questions: Brian Cowen
Questions: Brian Cowen

Daniel McConnell

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has finally been invited to answer questions at the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry - and he is now expected to appear in July.

New figures released last night show the inquiry has cost the taxpayer €2.1m so far and could cost a total of €5m.

The Oireachtas Banking Inquiry has called Mr Cowen to give evidence to the committee as part of the central investigative or Nexus phase of its work.

Mr Cowen, who was Taoiseach at the time of the financial crisis in 2008 and our ultimate entry into the Troika bailout in 2010, is known to be annoyed at the delay in being called.

He is keen to counter evidence given to the inquiry in January by Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan that he overruled his then-finance minister, the late Brian Lenihan, on the night of the bank guarantee.

The former leader of Fianna Fáil is one of 14 witnesses sent a letter yesterday by the inquiry.

No date has been set for their appearances, but sources close to the inquiry have said it will be in July.

Others receiving notification today include the former minister for finance Charlie McCreevy; Liam O'Reilly, a former financial regulator; Kevin Cardiff, a former secretary general of the department of finance who is now in a senior role with the European Court of Auditors, and David Doyle, who headed the Department of Finance at the time of the crisis.

Derek Moran, the secretary general of the Department of Finance, has also been sent an invitation, along with his predecessor, John Moran, who left the post last year.

In addition, Central Bank of Ireland governor Patrick Honohan has been asked to re-appear before the committee. Cyril Roux, who heads up financial regulation at the Central Bank, and his predecessor, Englishman Matthew Elderfield, who now has a senior position with Lloyds Banking in the UK, are also on the list of those called.

The Nexus phase will run from next Wednesday until the middle of September, with a total of 64 public hearings planned. About 60 witnesses will be called during this phase.

The committee also agreed a process of engagement with the European Central Bank that will entail a dual approach of "separate, but complimentary meetings" with former president Jean-Claude Trichet and current ECB deputy president Vítor Constâncio.

The inquiry also released cost figures and other details of its work to date last night.

The documents reveal that establishment and initial scoping work cost €996,000, including €220,000 in capital fit-out costs for the committee rooms and staff accommodation.

Computer and ICT equipment cost €290,000, the figures state. Staffing during set-up cost €426,000, with legal advice amounting to €56,000.

Current running costs since the inquiry began in earnest before Christmas have topped €1.17m, with €897,000 being spent on staff costs.

Of that, €476,000 has gone on secretariat staff, €360,000 has gone on the inquiry's investigation team while a further €61,000 has gone on support staff for individual members of the inquiry.

Irish Independent

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