Acceptance of Drumm’s evidence will be ‘close call’

It will be a “close call” whether the banking probe can consider former Anglo chief David Drumm’s written evidence after the idea of allowing him to given video-link testimony was torpedoed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, a senior source has warned.

The Oireachtas probe was meeting today to decide on the issue after Drumm’s offer to give evidence from the US threw the process into turmoil.

Some members insisted they would not attend such a hearing if it went ahead as they said it could be seen as legitimising Drumm’s decision not to return to Ireland to face questions over his role in the Anglo collapse.

The subject of Drumm’s written evidence, which contradicted that of former taosieach Brian Cowen, will now come under scrutiny.

“It will be a close call whether the inquiry can accept the written evidence,” said a senior source. “Conflicting legal advice has been given, with one senior counsel saying it cannot be rejeceted as he did respond properly to that part of the request to give evidence.

“The fact that so much of it has already appeared in the public arena is a complicating factor, it may well be rejected.”

The DPP told the inquiry there were strong concerns regarding any video-link appearance by Drumm, and reserved the right to take the issue to court if the appearnce went ahead.

Drumm, who is wanted for questioning by gardaí, has refused to appear in person before the committee like other Irish nationals called as witnesses.

The Drumm video-link offer triggered drama at the inquiry as two members of the Oireachtas committee, Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath and Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy, said they would not take part in sessions centred on video-link evidence from Drumm.

Independent TD Shane Ross said the committee had descended into “political theatre” and the Drumm video-link offer was a “wickedly clever and devious” move.

The committee’s legal team advised it the offer by the former Anglo chief should not be taken up.

Committee chairman Ciaran Lynch said the probe had always avoided any decisions that would have ended in legal proceedings, and he hoped this would continue to be the case.

Mr McGrath said to have allowed the Drumm offer would be to “facilitate his non-co-operation” with the gardaí.

Inquiry member and Socialist TD Joe Higgins said it would have been wrong for Drumm to be allowed to remain abroad while giving evidence.

“People felt treated with contempt if somebody had not come to answer in person serious questions in regard to Anglo and its role in the bubble and crash that in general caused huge suffering and hardship,” Mr Higgins said.

Senator Susan O’Keefe said she expected the committee to adhere to the legal advice offered.

“There are plenty of people who would like to hear from David Drumm, but I don’t want to hear from him if it is going to prejudice the inquiry or if would prejudice any case that is before the courts at the moment in relation to Anglo,” Ms O’Keefe said.

Former tánaiste Mary Harney and ex-Green cabinet minister John Gormley are set to give evidence to the probe tomorrow.

The probe is set to deliver its report in November.

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