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Lack of inquiry helping no one

AMONG all the casualties of the banking collapse, the fall from grace of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) must be the most dramatic and mysterious.

The authority's new chairman since last March, Niamh Brennan, told a Dail Committee that she still has not been able to get to the bottom of why the DDDA took a 26pc stake in the Irish Glass Bottle development project, which was part-financed by Anglo Irish Bank.

The venture turned into a financial nightmare for its investors, some of whom are now enmeshed in a web of legal action.

Today we report that Sean FitzPatrick, who is being investigated by the garda fraud squad on other matters, was paid thousands of euro in fees by the DDDA while he was a director of Anglo Irish.

The board of the authority saw no conflict of interest and the fees, together with those of another Anglo Irish director, were approved by the Department of Finance.

Meanwhile, excessive spending by officials of the docklands authority put other State quangos in the shade.

Hundreds of thousands were spent on flights, hotels and restaurants.

The DDDA defends its spending on foreign travel with unconscious irony.

Trips were undertaken to help the authority study similar large scale projects in other countries, it says, "so that the lessons learned could be applied to the Dublin project".

The DDDA revelations -- and the suspicion that they are but the tip of an iceberg -- are further evidence of the need for an investigation into the banking system.

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However, it appears that an Oireachtas committee may not have sufficient powers to deal with the 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 who are not members of the Oireachtas.

At the same time, judicial tribunals have proved to be costly and inconclusive. Perhaps a commission of investigation, like the recent Murphy inquiry, could be the answer.

Whatever approach the Government chooses to take, it must realise that, in the absence of an effective inquiry, the relentless drip of disclosure about the interaction of bankers, developers and politicians helps neither the rehabilitation of the banking system nor its own authority.


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