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Let's have facts on how the crisis was handled

The Government is contemplating the establishment of a "high-powered" Oireachtas inquiry into the origins of the banking and economic disaster.

This idea deserves, at best, only a cautious and qualified welcome. In the first place, such an inquiry probably cannot take place for at least a year. Before that happens, we will have to have a referendum to overturn a Supreme Court judgment which limited the powers of Oireachtas committees. We also await referendums on children's rights and on the abolition of the Seanad.

Secondly, we have to ask what are our chances of arriving at the truth. Three reports on the subject have been published, but we still do not know who said what to whom on such and such a date and what were the consequences.

And if we do find out the truth in every detail, what then? Advocates of inquisitions like this point to the example of the Dail Public Accounts Committee inquiry into bogus offshore bank accounts. It succeeded brilliantly from the viewpoint of exposure. But when it ended the bankers went back to their bad old ways, and worse.

Still, if this is the best (perhaps the only?) way to get at the facts, so be it. Brian Lenihan, when finance minister, feared frightening children. The wrong approach. It bears any amount of repeating that we the citizens, who must pay for the catastrophe, are entitled to know exactly what caused it.