Lenihan poised to name head of banking crisis investigation

FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan is expected to tentatively appoint the head of the proposed Commission of Investigation into the banking crisis “in the coming days”.

Addressing a sitting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance and Public Service yesterday, which was dealing with the terms of reference of the investigation, Mr Lenihan said that it was his preference that the banking inquiry will be conducted by one individual, who will be from overseas and will have the relevant EU financial expertise.

While no fixed start date for the commission has been named as yet, it will be carried out in parallel – but independent of – two other reviews; namely a report from the Joint Committee on Finance and an external review into the role and effectiveness of the Department of Finance during the banking crisis. Mr Lenihan said that the composition of the review body into the latter will be finalised by the end of the year.

Regarding the main Commission of Investigation – the need for which has been criticised by opposition parties and questioned by Central Bank chief Patrick Honohan – Mr Lenihan stated that its role is vital. He said that anything short of a sworn investigation couldn’t accurately succeed in reviewing the crisis.

“The public is entitled to have a comprehensive investigation into the banks and I don’t agree with the Opposition that something short of a commission can undertake such an investigation.”

“Government can’t go to the banks and ask what went wrong. Government needs to go to the banks and say: ‘we need to know what went wrong’,” he added.

The draft order to establish the Commission of Investigation is to be put to a vote in both houses of the Oireachtas in the coming weeks, once the final terms of reference are agreed.

Mr Lenihan said yesterday that the two recent reports into Irish banking failures provided “excellent analysis”, but also “a strong basis on which the commission can choose to build its investigation”.

He also said that such an investigation would likely last for a longer duration than the initial estimate of six months, once it finally gets under way.

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