Full-scale public inquiry 'to be considered' into sale of loans at former IBRC

Full-scale public inquiry 'to be considered' into sale of loans at former IBRC

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said "a full blown" Moriarty Tribunal-style inquiry into the IBRC and Siteserv saga needs to be considered due to ongoing difficulties facing the current investigation, writes Irish Examiner Political Reporter Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

The Fine Gael leader confirmed the option may have to be examined during a Dáil debate this morning, during which he insisted there "wasn't anything sinister" about the decision to publish an interim report into the issue as a bank holiday loomed last Friday evening.

Responding to calls from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy for an update on what is happening with the investigation, Mr Kenny said he is giving Judge Brian Cregan a two month extension to further examine the case.

However, in a potentially crucial move, the acting Taoiseach added that he is also considering a range of other legal options - including the possibility of "a full blown inquiry" into the controversy.

"I've given a look at this, I've given it a two month extension. There are a number of challenges that Justice Cregan has pointed out, some of them are legal, some of them are constitutional, but there are a number of options to be considered.

"I'd be happy to accommodate you with a meeting either today or tomorrow to let you have an up to date accurate range of those opinions which include actually a full blown, full blown public inquiry.

"However, when we consider that Moriarty [the corruption tribunal examining payments to politicians] ran for 13 years at a very costly sum to the taxpayer, these are options that need to be considered," he said.

It is expected that Mr Kenny and Ms Murphy - who has repeatedly raised the Siteserv controversy since late 2014 - will meet either today or on Thursday to discuss what options are now available.

However, the Social Democrats co-leader has previously made it clear she wants the Siteserv element of the wider IBRC issue to be prioritised before any wide-ranging investigation takes hold due to the complex nature of the matters involved.

The Siteserv and IBRC investigation was finally set up in June 2015 after public outrage, political pressure and a short-lived constitutional crisis over what could be reported in the Dáil due to allegations made about businessman Denis O Brien and alleged preferential treatment by the State bank.

It had been intended to complete its work within seven weeks after examining 37 company sales - including the Siteserv deal linked to Irish Water- involving write-downs of €10m or more by IBRC between January 21, 2009, and February 7, 2013; any preferential interest rate terms costing the taxpayer €4m or more; and "unusual" share trading before companies were sold.

When the inquiry was launched just under a year ago, Mr Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan both insisted it would be published before the election.

However, in an initial interim report published before Christmas Judge Cregan said he has not been given adequate powers to properly examine the write-offs, obtain confidential documents from KPMG - IBRC's special liquidators - outlining why decisions were taken, and share price activity issues.

In his second interim report, published after 8pm last Friday despite the fact it was signed off on by Cabinet last Tuesday, Judge Cregan said he is continuing to face difficulties in obtaining information vital to the investigation.

In particular, he has written to KPMG querying why 50,000 pages concerning the bank's Siteserv deal have not been provided to the investigation to date, and why "virtually no documents, e-mails or correspondence to or from certain officers and staff of IBRC" have been provided.

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