Wednesday 17 January 2018

Walking away

Mary Fogarty

'It's about trust,' said Deputy Stephen Donnelly on his departure at the weekend from the banking inquiry.

Former finance minister and former Anglo chair Alan Dukes has accused Donnelly on air of being 'a bit precious', and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore reckons the whole thing was a 'stroke' by Fianna Fáil.

However, Deputy Donnelly spelled out that his reason for leaving was what he has called political interference by the Taoiseach rather than any Government majority on the committee.

The only way he would ever even consider returning to the body would be if the two senators added to the inquiry are removed.

'The banking inquiry has important work to do. It can't do that without trust,' said Deputy Donnelly.

He hypothesised on the eventual production of a report which would be critical of, say, Fianna Fáil, for example. 'They're going to say, well of course the Government would come up with that report.'

Donnelly said that there is no value to his being on a committee if everyone believes it's a 'political stitch up.'

Enda Kenny, according to Donnelly, has removed the public trust, and interfered with the democratic process.

He said that his leaving the inquiry had nothing to do with a Government majority. 'It's about standing up to the subvention of democracy,' said the TD.

When asked if it is better to remain within a flawed system rather than out of it, Donnelly said yes that is correct, in certain circumstances.

'When going to the Dáil, yes, that's what you sign up for. This is different. Are you better off in something people don't trust? It's a waste of anybody's time. I would add that it is incumbent on all members of Parliament to stand up for Parliament. The Labour senators didn't turn up, they didn't get the vote.'

Donnelly added that on the day of the vote, Fianna Fáil, knowing that the Government didn't have the numbers, even asked the house if they wished to suspend the vote.

'It was Fianna Gael who insisted on going ahead. Obviously Fianna Fail were going to vote for their own people. Is it ok for the Taoiseach to overturn decisions if he doesn't like them?'

Deputy Donnelly referred to what had happened as controlling micro-management of the Oireachtas. 'This is the kind of thing that got us here in the first place and it's an abuse of democracy.'

He added that the only way to restore trust in the banking inquiry would be to restore the original vote of the Oireachtas.

On whether he would return in those circumstances, Donnelly said his own presence or lack thereof is not important.

'The important thing is that the public trust the inquiry.' However, he added when pressed that in the case he outlined, he would be 'delighted' to return to the committee.

This followed remarks made to a journalist from the previous day by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr. Kenny said that he hoped Mr. Donnelly would reconsider his position as the whip was removed from the members on the inquiry and they are free to vote independently.

'I think his article on Sunday was written on the assumption the Government was going to require that the committee would work to a particular Government mandate,' he said. 'That is patently not true. So in that sense (and) given the fact the committee needs good people, perhaps Deputy Donnelly might reconsider his position.'

However the Wicklow TD said the inquiry has been critically undermined by the Taoiseach's move to 'force a majority, control the terms of reference and ensure he knows what the inquiry members would do.'

He added that the situation is 'essentially like bringing a gun to the table and saying you're not going to use it. Everyone is still acutely aware that it's still there.'

The Greystones man is a former management consultant with a Masters degree in public administration. The economy and matters of finance fall within his expertise, so should he have hung in regardless?

He says not. 'I would love to be able to add to the committee,' he said, however insisted once again that he would have no value on a valueless body.

Wicklow People

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