Drummer's video would turn bank inquiry into a joke

"Have a bit of respect, will you?" David Drumm yelled those words through the front door of his luxury $4.5m Cape Cod home when RTE reporter Charlie Bird tracked him down there in 2010.

For the disgraced ex-CEO of Anglo Irish Bank, unfortunately, respect seems to be a one-way street - his arrogant approach to the Oireachtas banking inquiry is threatening to destroy its credibility once and for all.

The man known to his friends as Drummer has been formally asked to appear in Leinster House's Committee Room 1 next Wednesday. Last week, he sent an email to warn the inquiry members that they need not bother putting out a chair for him.

Instead, this central figure in Ireland's banking collapse is offering to give evidence by video link from Boston, where he has been a fugitive since 2008.

Needless to say, Drumm's refusal to get on a plane is not because he has lost the use of his legs. He is asking the banking inquiry to make do with a virtual Drummer due to his fears of what might happen to him once he sets foot on Irish soil, namely he is wanted for questioning by the garda fraud bureau.

The banking inquiry committee is split down the middle. Some members feel that grilling Drumm through a computer screen might be better than nothing. Others say he should be told to go take a running jump.

They feel it would be even more demeaning than Jean-Claude Trichet's appearance last April, when the former ECB boss sat on a podium in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and committee members questioned him from the floor like lepers granted an audience with the Pope.

It is possible to have sympathy with both points of view. Drumm's written statement to the inquiry is reportedly quite juicy and committee members desperately need something to prove they are not just wasting their time.


They failed to land a punch on Brian Cowen or Bertie Ahern, while last Thursday's session with Enda Kenny and Joan Burton descended into a political Punch and Judy show - entertaining, but not educational.

On the other hand, the optics of a David Drumm video show would be absolutely awful. Whatever you think of the banking inquiry, it was set up by our national parliament and is entitled to the full co-operation of every Irish citizen.

Since Drummer has been giving two fingers to the gardai for over six years, TDs and Senators should not embarrass themselves by accepting his gracious offer of a Skype call.

Another reason to dismiss Drumm's request, of course, is that nobody could believe a word that comes out of his mouth any more. When he lost his bid for bankruptcy in Massachusetts last January, Judge Frank Bailey's verdict was devastating. Drumm, he said, was "not remotely credible", "fraudulent" and seemed to be "casting about for any plausible answer but the truth".

Presumably, Drummer now feels he has something to tell the banking inquiry that could help his shattered reputation. Quite apart from the principles involved in him giving video evidence, however, committee members should realise that there are serious legal pitfalls here.

If the witness was to say anything that prejudiced current or future trials involving Anglo officials, then all hell would break loose - and the inquiry would look even more hapless than it does right now.

Since David Drumm apparently feels like getting a few things off his chest, he should book a flight to Dublin and head for the nearest garda station. Until then, the banking inquiry must hang on to its last few shreds of dignity - and treat Drummer with the same contempt that he obviously feels for the rest of us.