Taoiseach rejects claims of 'self-protection racket'
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night rejected accusations that the banking inquiry is "a cover-up" and a "self-protection racket" rather than an open and transparent investigation.
He was speaking after scathing criticism from the opposition parties about the plans announced by the Government for an inquiry into the failure of the banking system.
The vast majority of the inquiry will be held in private, and it is not yet clear if seismic events, such as the blanket guarantee, the nationalisation of Anglo Irish Bank and the recapitalisation of AIB, Bank of Ireland and Anglo, will be included.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the public would get the impression that a "secret deal" had been struck.
Mr Kenny said it looked like an "inquiry by insiders, for insiders, designed to protect insiders" and a "whitewash".
He said Mr Cowen was "afraid" of a full public inquiry since he had been finance minister from 2004 to 2008.
A commission of investigation, similar to the Murphy and Ryan inquiries into clerical sexual abuse, will be set up and will do its business in private. The commission will then produce a report and the Oireachtas will be "invited to consider the findings of the report".
Mr Kenny said the Dail should not be "sidelined to irrelevancy". There should be "proper accountability, proper transparency" rather than an inquiry that was a "self-protection racket".
Mr Cowen said he would "fully co-operate" with the inquiry and said it was a "tried and tested mode of investigation that has brought results in other areas of the public interest".
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said it was not a two-stage system, as the Green Party had wished for, but had been extended "to drag it on as long as possible".
He added that the first report from the commission would be to ask for more time to complete the investigation. He called it "a dodge" which would not report until after the next general election.
Mr Cowen would not say if the inquiry would investigate events that took place from September 2008 onwards, adding that would be dealt with when the terms of reference were established.
The bank guarantee, the nationalisation of Anglo-Irish Bank and the recapitalisation of AIB, Bank of Ireland and Anglo all took place from September 1, 2008.
Mr Kenny said thousands of people were unable to pay their mortgages and were in negative equity partly because of decisions taken by Mr Cowen during his time as finance minister.
The announcement of the inquiry came after credit agency Moody's revealed that 6,400 homeowners had not made any mortgage repayments in the past year.
Ciaran Lynch, Labour's housing spokesperson, said the figures were worrying and called for a two-year moratorium on repossessions. He said that the one-year moratorium on house repossessions was reaching an end and there was concern that that various financial institutions would move against troubled homeowners.
"As the process of the Nama-fication of bank debts approaches the point of no return, and as more mortgage holders reach the 12-month cut-off point, I believe the banks will take the gloves off and take a much more hardline approach," he added.