State inquiry costs set to hit €500m by end of this year

State inquiry costs set to hit €500m by end of this year

The cost of funding public tribunals and commissions of inquiry into wrongdoing by state agencies and individuals will reach close to €500m by the end of this year.

Documents obtained by the Irish Examiner reveal for the first time a global picture of costs relating to seven tribunals of inquiry, 11 commissions of investigation, one commission of inquiry, and three reports into certain matters.

By the end of 2019, taxpayers will have paid €479m to fund such inquiries. The documents show that, as of December 31, the seven tribunals had cost a total of €341m, with two ongoing.

The costs are broken down as follows:

  • The 1997 Mahon tribunal (originally the Flood tribunal) into planning matters and payments had, by the end of last year, cost €136m, including third-party costs;
  • The Moriarty tribunal, also established in 1997, to look at certain payments to politicians, has cost €63.3m and been deemed to have concluded its work. Despite this, the Department of an Taoiseach has budgeted another €4.3m for 2019 in order to pay third-party legal fees;
  • The Smithwick tribunal, which was established in 2006 over suggestions that members of An Garda Síochána colluded in the fatal shooting of RUC superintendents Harry Breen and Robert Buchanan in 1989, has cost €19.9m to date. It is listed for continued funding for 2019 as part of a number of inquiries sponsored by the Department of Justice. Its 2019 allocation for such inquiries is €4.9m;
  • The 2002 Morris tribunal into Garda matters in Donegal is deemed to have concluded. Its updated costs totalled €68.8m at the end of 2018;
  • The 1999 Lindsay tribunal into the infection with HIV and hepatitis C of persons with haemophilia and related matters, which is deemed to have concluded, cost a total of €46.7m;
  • The 1997 Finlay tribunal into the Blood Transfusion Board cost €4.4m;
  • The 2017 Charleton tribunal into matters relating to Garda whistleblowers and protected disclosures has to date cost €2.9m and is expected to cost a further €1.9m this year.

The documents state that third-party costs remain to be paid in the Smithwick and Morris tribunals.

The 11 commissions of investigation have to date cost €28.6m, a clear indication as to why governments have chosen to establish these over the more expensive tribunals.

The most expensive commission to date has been the one into alleged sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin including Cloyne, established in 2009. It has cost €8.8m so far, and is deemed to have concluded its work.

The 2015 Cregan commission, into IBRC and Siteserv, has, according to the documents, cost €5m so far. However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said last week that the latest figure is closer to €7.5m and will likely top €30m by the time it is completed.

The 2014 Fennelly commission, into certain recordings of Garda Síochána members relating to the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and the departure of former commissioner Martin Callinan, has cost €3.5m to date.

Other commissions listed include: The O’Higgins commission into Cavan/Monaghan Garda matters (€1.8m); the 2014 MacLochlainn commission into the shooting of Ronan MacLochlainn (€1.1m); the Leas Cross commission (€2.1m); Dublin/Monaghan bombings commission (€2.6m); the ‘Grace’ foster abuse commission (€2m); Nama/Project Eagle commission (€1.2m, expected to top €10m) and the Moran commission into 2016 Rio ticket sales (€312,765).

Mr Varadkar said “there isn’t a week that goes by that the opposition, TDs, or party leaders call for an inquiry or a tribunal or whatever.

“And while they may be merited, we must bear in mind the time that they take, they often don’t give people the answers they want or need, and they cost the taxpayer a lot of money. So we all need to bear that in mind when we call for inquiries into the future.”

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