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Parliamentary Inquiries (Continued)

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 2

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Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath I thank the Minister for his reply. All of us in this House have an obligation to channel the understandable anger of the Irish people from the revelations over the past week into something positive, and to do something constructive. Above all else, the public want to see the criminal justice system work efficiently. I note from today's Irish Independent that the Central Bank is undertaking its own investigation into the question of whether or not it was deliberately misled by Anglo Irish Bank. I find it extraordinary that the Central Bank appears not to have had access to the tapes. It came as news to them, as it did to everybody else.

  On the issue of the inquiry, our view is that it should be a fully independent public inquiry. It needs to deal with all of the key issues involved in the banking collapse in a comprehensive way. First and foremost, it should deal with the failures within the banks. In addition, the role of auditors, the financial regulator and the Central Bank must also be carefully examined. Of course, the question of political oversight and political decisions that were made should also be looked at, as well as ECB policy in the European context.

  One of the flaws which is glaringly obvious in the approach the Government is taking is that from the very outset, if one goes down the road of a parliamentary inquiry, one is excluding a whole bunch of important people concerning the banking collapse from any possibility of having an adverse finding delivered against them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt A question please.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath That is a key weakness. It is one of the reasons why a political banking inquiry will not ultimately be successful. Even at this late stage, I am calling on the Minister for Finance to reconsider his view on that issue.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I would not disagree with the objective stated by the Deputy for an inquiry. It has to be a fully open inquiry and must pursue the facts wherever that pursuit leads. The Deputy is aware that there was a referendum which would have empowered an Oireachtas committee, or committees, much more strongly than they are currently empowered. I still think, however, that the inquiry can be conducted within the present constitutional parameters. Even though some people would like the power in a committee to have adverse findings against individuals, that is principally a matter for the criminal justice system. The gardaí are investigating and we do not want to have a situation arising where a committee cuts across the judicial system because then one might prejudice a trial. We have had examples of that before where words spoken indiscreetly made it impossible for a trial to proceed. We certainly do not want that.

As regards the terms of reference, my understanding from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, is that when the Bill proceeds through the House and is passed, the inquiry will effectively be in the ownership of the House. It will then be up to the committee and the House to decide the terms of reference of that committee.

The Bill is in process at present and I invite Deputies to contribute to the process of the legislation and give their advice to the Minister.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath We will very much contribute to that process but the reality is that the House is controlled by the Executive and therefore the terms of reference will, in essence, be decided by the Cabinet. Let us be honest with people about that. Nobody wants to embark on an inquiry which would in any way compromise important criminal investigations. We all take that as a given, so whatever form of inquiry is established, among its priorities will have to be the requirement to ensure that criminal prosecutions are not in any way undermined.

  I wish to ask the Minister about today's revelations from Governor Honohan's interview. I have been greatly surprised by the fact that the Central Bank is only now, because of the revelations, examining the possibility that it was deliberately misled by Anglo Irish Bank in the lead-up to the bank guarantee decision in 2008. Can the Minister confirm that the Central Bank had no knowledge of, or access to, these tapes until they were publicly aired by the Irish Independent?

  The fundamental question which emerged in the tapes last Monday for everybody to hear, was whether or not the State was deliberately misled. Has that only come to the fore now and did the Central Bank have no knowledge of, or access to, the tapes until they were publicly aired?

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