Thursday 14 November 2019

Inquiry has to be transparent

THE Government has responded to the call for a full, transparent inquiry into the banking collapse and has come up with what the Green Party leader describes as "a hybrid between public and private", with which he proclaims himself very pleased.

Whether the public will regard the hybrid as sufficiently transparent -- and be just as pleased as John Gormley -- remains to be seen.

Government spokespersons have been citing the Murphy report into clerical child abuse as an ideal model for a speedy and cost-effective inquiry, which they say they have tried to replicate.

In fairness, an Oireachtas Committee on its own would not have sufficient powers to deal with issues that could emerge. At the time of the Abbeylara shooting inquiry, the Supreme Court ruled that an Oireachtas Committee could not make adverse findings against individuals.

In simple terms, an Oireachtas Committee is relatively toothless and why this legal anomaly has not been changed by now may itself be a matter for inquiry.

Judicial tribunals are costly and often inconclusive. Hence the Government's proposed Commission of Investigation.

It is too soon to brand it as a whitewash, as the Fine Gael leader has done. The involvement of Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan, who will report on the failings of the regulatory system, will surely preclude the possibility of a whitewash in that area. The Government could not ignore the influential voice of Professor Honohan when he pointed out that an inquiry into the banks was essential. The relentless drip of disclosure about the interaction of bankers, developers and politicians helps neither the banks nor the Government's own authority.

The Finance Minister insists that the other preliminary areas of investigation, such as banks' corporate strategies, will be undertaken by independent experts, who are being dubbed "the wise men". Again, we have to give the wise men the benefit of the doubt and assume they will follow their own star and reject any attempt at whitewash.

Finally, the Commission of Investigation is being asked to produce a report within six months. Will this procedure provide the transparent public narrative and disclosure that such massive institutional failures warrant? No doubt the proposition will be diligently tested in the weeks and months ahead.

Irish Independent

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