Wednesday 21 August 2019

Rowdy scenes in Dail as Taoiseach says he'd be 'breaking the law' to ask Finance Department about IBRC inquiry

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Department of Finance has handed over 200,000 pages of unredacted documents
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Department of Finance has handed over 200,000 pages of unredacted documents

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he would be “breaking the law” if he were to ask the Department of Finance about their engagement with the Commission of Investigation into IBRC.

During rowdy scenes in the Dáil, Mr Kenny repeatedly refused to say when Michael Noonan’s officials first became aware of the problems that have beset the inquiry into transactions involving debt write-downs of over €10m.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach for “a bit of truth and honesty” and claim there was “Chinese walls syndrome at the heart of the Government”.

Mr Martin said it was “incredible” that Mr Kenny would not know details about how the Department of Finance’s interactions with the sole member of the Commission, Judge Brian Cregan.

“You come in here and say that the issue of utilisation of privilege is an issue for one government department and not the entire Government.

“It’s an extraordinary assertion by you Taoiseach,” he said.

Documents released by the Commission show that the Department of Finance raised concerns about the confidentiality and privileged nature of documents being sought by the Commission in relation to deals by the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Up to 38 deals are being investigated but much of the focus has surrounded the sale of Siteserv to a company owned by businessman Denis O’Brien. It went on to win a contract installing metres for Irish Water.

Mr Martin said it was “inconceivable” that the Department of Finance would claim legal privilege applies to documents it provided to the Commission without the Finance Minister’s knowledge.

“We are fed up of not getting straight answers in Leaders’ Questions. This house is being dismissed on an ongoing basis,” Mr Martin shouted across the Dáil chamber.

In response Mr Kenny said that he could not answer the questions because to do so would involve him breaking the law as the Department of Finance is a party to the Commission of Investigation.

The Fine Gael leader said he was “not hiding anything”, but added: “I am not in a position to answer questions about what the Department of Finance has either sent or said to the Commission of Investigation.”

“I just can’t believe that you are a party to the Oireachtas which set up the Commission of Investigation act and you come in here this morning and invite me in my capacity as Taoiseach to break the law.”

Mr Kenny said that that the Opposition leader could “talk all you like about Chinese walls” but if he were to engage with the Department of Finance to find out the information being sought then Mr Martin would be “the first person to stand up and say that I’m deliberately interfering in this process because of some other side analysis”.

Online Editors

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