Oireachtas committee to question head of ODCE on collapse of Sean FitzPatrick trial

Ian Drennan.

The head of the State's corporate law watchdog is expected to discuss his department's investigation into Sean Fitzpatrick at an Oireachtas committee today.

Ian Drennan's Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) was heavily criticised during the trial of the Anglo Irish Bank Chairman which ultimately collapsed in part due to unease over the ODCE's handling of the investigation.

Mr Drennan will share his views on proposals to evolve the ODCE into a stand-alone agency with more investigative tools and autonomy.

The Chairperson of the Oireachtas Business Enterprise and Innovation Committee, Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler said it is important to learn from mistakes of the past.

Ms Butler said: "This statutory body that has been put in place is going to replace the ODCE and we are currently undertaking scrutiny on that particular bill.

"So Mr Drennan, the Director of the ODCE, will be coming before our committee to discuss the heads of the bill and also to discuss the issues in relation to the collapse of the Sean FitzPatrick trial because the issues are interlinked, they are intermixed."

Ms Butler said she has received legal advice that the Committee can hear evidence from former legal adviser to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) Kevin O’Connell.

She said: “It is important that we have as much information in the public domain to learn from the mistakes of the past.

“We have consulted with the OPLA, the parliamentary legal advisers, we will have to take a cautious approach,” she told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“We always look for a briefing document in advance. To set out our stall, to prepare questions.”

She explained that the general scheme of the Companies Enforcement Authority Bill 2018 was referred to the committee shortly before Christmas, saying “this scheme is a direct response to the collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial and is a direct response to the scathing attack by judge Aylmer that he launched at the ODCE after the collapse of the Fitzpatrick trial.

“A new statutory body is being set up and the onus is on us as legislators to perform robust scrutiny of the heads of the bill, as a result Mr Drennan and the director of the ODCE will appear before the committee today.

“Mr Drennan did state in his opening statement that he believes the committee is not in possession of information to enable it to reach fact-based conclusions. That is one area we will be probing."

“Mr Drennan has offered the committee a report of 415 pages that to date we haven't accepted.

“If you want to put a new statutory body in place you have to learn from the mistakes of the past. He did mention, quite rightly, that the risks associated with taking on a suite of investigations of this scale were not sufficiently appreciated at the time. I believe he is referring to the lack of staff at that time, the lack of experience and a joint look back was then undertaken by the DPP and the ODCE to learn from the issues during the investigation and the prosecution.

“We would like to see some of the issues raised by Judge Aylmer addressed - coaching and contamination of witnesses, shredding of documents and a partisan and biased approach that was taken by the ODCE during this trial.

“We must remember this was the collapse of the longest running white-collar trial in the history of the State, it ran to 126 days and we all understand the fall-out from the Anglo Irish bank, so it is imperative now that we are equipped with all the information we need going forward to make sure that this Bill is as robust as possible.”

Ms Butler added that Kevin O'Connell had contacted all members of the committee, saying he accepted the mistakes and errors he made “but he would like to discuss the level of his responsibility".

"Having considered his submission I believe he deserves an opportunity to present his case and as chair of the committee, I will be recommending to the committee members this course of action. This is a decision the committee will make today.”

More on this topic

ODCE head says the 'wheels came off' in a 'catastrophic way' during Sean FitzPatrick trial

Head of ODCE denies 'fundamental errors' made during Anglo investigations

Calls to publish FitzPatrick trial collapse report

Claims of corporate affairs watchdog being under-resourced 'seriously concerning', says Fitzgerald

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