Sunday 22 September 2019

Second judge sought for 'eight-year' IBRC inquiry

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

THE need for a second judge to help carry out the Commission of Investigation into IBRC has been highlighted in the interim report which will be sent to the Taoiseach next week, the Irish Independent understands.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan believes that the workload needed to probe 38 multi-million euro transactions by the former Anglo Irish Bank could take "seven to eight years" unless he gets help.

A draft version of the interim report makes no direct mention of contracting firm Siteserv, the sale of which to Denis O'Brien's Millington with a write-down of €119m was the catalyst for the establishment of the commission.

The draft report has been circulated in recent days to parties engaged with the commission including the Department of Finance, special liquidators of IBRC, KPMG, and the former management of IBRC.

It was accompanied by letters advising those in receipt that they have until this Friday to reply with observations or to request changes. The correspondence also warns interested parties not to say that they have received the report or to comment on it publicly.

However, the Irish Independent has learned that the sole member of the commission, Mr Justice Cregan, wants a second judge appointed to help him.

He also warns that it could take "several years" for his work to be completed, with two sources saying the time-frame suggested is up to eight years.

The original deadline set when the commission was set up last July was the end of this year.

It has stalled because the judge feels he is not in a position to decide whether the confidentiality and legal privilege attached to thousands of documents he requires is overruled by a public interest argument.

"This is turning into a monster that nobody will be able to stop," said one source familiar with the process.

The interim report does not reach any conclusions about the transactions but outlines a series of obstacles facing the inquiry.

The Cabinet has delayed deciding what measures it should take to try and get the Commission back on track until after the interim report is delivered to the Taoiseach.

One option being looked at is emergency legislation but this is not certain.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan was asked yesterday whether the public are "likely to see" more clarity around the investigation before the General Election but he replied that "will be up to the judge".

In the Dáil yesterday Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin demanded to know from the Taoiseach when the Department of Finance first found out about the problems facing the Commission of Inquiry.

Mr Kenny said he was "not hiding anything" but would be "breaking the law" if he were to ask another department about its engagement with the commission.

Irish Independent

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