Sunday 22 April 2018

Leadership rivals on collision course over bank inquiry

Alex White and Joan Burton (inset)
Alex White and Joan Burton (inset)

Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

THE Labour Party leadership candidates are on a collision course over Taoiseach Enda Kenny's decision to impose a government majority on the highly anticipated banking inquiry.

Junior Health Minister Alex White said the fallout from the embarrassing row, which saw Mr Kenny add two new government candidates to the inquiry, was "giving politics a bad name".

However, his leadership rival, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, backed the Government's decision to increase the Oireachtas committee's membership after initially failing to secure the balance of power.

A mix-up during a Seanad vote saw the Government lose its majority on the original nine-member committee.

Mr Kenny insisted the inquiry into the €64bn bank bailout could not progress if the Government did not hold a majority and added two new members from the Coalition.

The Taoiseach was accused of undermining the inquiry by intervening in the selection process and was compared to Hitler by opposition politicians

Mr White added his criticisms, saying it was "not critical" for the Government to hold a majority.

"I think this is frankly the kind of behaviour that gives politics a bad a name," he added.

Ms Burton, however, supported the Taoiseach's decision to add more members because the original inquiry team would have consisted solely of male politicians.

"I think politics would have a very bad name if there were no women on the banking inquiry or no women of the calibre of Senator Susan O'Keeffe, who has a huge amount of experience in terms of carrying out investigations," she said.

But Ms Burton refused to be drawn on the failure by the Labour Party to ensure it had enough senators present to win the vote.

Labour's Susan O'Keeffe failed to be selected during the first nomination vote because of a mix-up in pairing arrangements.

She was not present during the vote as she previously arranged to take time off because her daughter was sitting the Leaving Cert in Sligo.

In her absence, Fianna Fail Senator Marc MacSharry was selected along with Independent Senator Sean Barrett.

A second vote was taken yesterday and Ms O'Keeffe was elected along with Fine Gael Senator Michael D'Arcy.

They will join the other government nominees who are Labour's Ciaran Lynch, who will chair the inquiry, and Fine Gael TDs Eoghan Murphy, Kieran O'Donnell and John Paul Phelan.

Along with Mr MacSharry and Mr Barrett, the opposition is represented by Fianna Fail TD Michael McGrath, Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty and Independent TD Stephen Donnelly.

The committee will meet next Thursday for the first time.

Irish Independent

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