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State set to boost bank inquiry numbers

THE Government is leaning towards increasing the number of members on the banking inquiry from nine to 11, the Irish Independent has learnt.

Such a move represents the "preferred option", according to senior coalition sources, and would require cabinet approval next week.

It was initially decided that the inquiry team would be made up of five government representatives and four from the opposition side.

However, the issue was subject to a heated row last week after Fianna Fail's Marc MacSharry was appointed to the inquiry team because the Government's preferred candidate, Labour's Susan O'Keeffe, and some of her colleagues failed to turn up for the vote.

Fine Gael senator Maurice Cummins objected to Mr MacSharry's membership, claiming that he suffered from a conflict of interest. He later withdrew the remark.

The Government is now adamant that it must have a majority – and looks set to increase the number of members from nine to 11.

"It's the preferred option right now but certainly we won't leave things as they stand," a government source explained.

In a statement last night, the Seanad's Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) indicated that it would not overturn the selection of Mr MacSharry, a Sligo-based senator.

It said that such a move could not be taken because the Inquiry Committee was not up and running.

"Once the terms of reference resolution is passed by the House setting out the subject matter of the proposed inquiry, and the committee tasked with carrying out the inquiry is named, the CPP will have a clear role in the determination of whether a perception of bias arises in relation to an individual member," the Oireachtas said.

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