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Banking Inquiry

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Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin)

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Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin)

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Snippet Contents:

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government, at its meeting on 14th May 2013, approved the publication of the text of the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013. The aim of this Bill is to establish a comprehensive statutory framework for the Oireachtas to conduct inquiries within the current constitutional framework.
The Bill envisages a central role for the Oireachtas in both initiating and conducting a parliamentary inquiry. Under the Bill, responsibility is assigned exclusively to the Houses of the Oireachtas to determine the requirement for a formal inquiry, the terms of reference of that inquiry, the appropriate committee to conduct an inquiry and the procedural and organisational aspects of the inquiry.
It is a matter for the Oireachtas to determine the resources that will be made available to any committee conducting an inquiry. The Bill obliges a committee, prior to conducting an inquiry, to prepare a report containing an estimate of the costs and expenses to be incurred in conducting an inquiry to be placed before the House.
In advance of a decision by the Oireachtas to conduct a banking inquiry and agreement on the type of inquiry and its terms of reference, it is not possible to make any assessment on the cost or duration of a banking inquiry.
It was firmly established in the Supreme Court judgment in the Abbeylara case that Oireachtas Inquiries do not, in general, have the power to make findings of fact adverse to the good name of any person who is not either a Member of the Houses or directly accountable to the Houses by virtue of the terms of their contract or statutory appointment. Only in such limited cases (or cases of impeachment of officeholders) may the reputations of individuals be put in issue.
The operation of an inquiry will not impede any judicial proceedings. Section 12(2) of the Bill provides that, if rules and standing orders so provide, a factor that may be considered by the Houses prior to determining the terms of reference resolution is the likelihood of the inquiry prejudicing any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress in the State. Section 26 makes clear that evidence given or sent to a committee for the purposes of an inquiry is not admissible as evidence in any proceedings, including disciplinary proceedings. Additionally, Section 30 of the Bill permits a committee conducting an inquiry to omit from the final report information that could lead to the identification of a person if, in the committee’s opinion, disclosure of the information could reasonably be expected to prejudice any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress in the State or any criminal investigation that is currently being conducted in the State or, inter alia, it would not be in the interests of justice to disclose the information. Section 68 makes clear that a committee may not direct a person to give evidence or a document to it if it could reasonably be expected to prejudice any criminal proceedings that are pending or in progress in the State or any criminal investigation that is currently being conducted in the State.