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'Big Three' may dodge grilling over bank crisis

Taoiseach Brian Cowen, his predecessor Bertie Ahern and former finance minister Charlie McCreevy may never face a public grilling over the banking crisis.

The Government was today accused of performing "a three-card trick" that in effect gets the big three from the past decade of Irish politics off the hook.


Critics said the inquiry was a "whitewash" and "conceived by insiders on behalf of insiders", after Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced details of a three-stage investigation into what or who caused the financial emergency.

Under the plans presented to the Dail yesterday, two separate reports will be completed before a commission of inquiry is set up.

But Labour's Joan Bruton told the Herald that the proposals "are free of any suggestions that the people politically in charge, the Taoiseach and finance ministers of the time, will in any way face any discussion or questions on their roles in bringing the banks down".

Similarly, FG leader Enda Kenny blasted the format, saying there is "little or no chance" that Mr Cowen and Mr Ahern will be held to account.

Minister Lenihan said the investigation should be completed by the end of this year.

But the opposition said it is "designed to delay and frustrate any public scrutiny of the causes of our current crisis".

Ms Bruton criticised the initial section of the inquiry that will see the Central Bank investigated by its own governor, Patrick Honohan.

"He's being asked to inquire into an outfit of which he is now boss," she said.

Minister Lenihan said that Mr Honohan could carry out the investigation because he was not involved with the Central Bank at the time and he is not being asked to find facts.

The Minister also made it clear yesterday that the inquiries will not look at or pass judgement on the Government's response to the crisis.


Hitting back today, he said that the alternative was him signing a €150m cheque for a tribunal of inquiry that would last year.

Mr Honohan will complete a report into the performance of the Central Bank and Financial Regulation, while "an independent 'wise' man or woman" will conduct a preliminary investigation into the overall crisis.

Both of these reports should be presented to the Oireachtas in four months, and at that stage the Terms of Reference will be set for a commission.