Bankers face sanctions if they don’t co-operate with inquiry

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has warned that bankers who fail to co-operate with a parliamentary banking inquiry face sanctions.

His comments came as Fianna Fáil admitted it had failed to properly regulate the sector during the financial crash and that former government members would co-operate with an inquiry.

As more revelations emerged yesterday about executives’ taped internal conversations, Mr Noonan called on former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drumm to co-operate with an inquiry.

Speaking in Limerick, Mr Noonan said there would be sanctions in the forthcoming Oireachtas inquiries legislation.

On Mr Drumm, He said: “That is an issue as well, when he is contemplating his position.”

On a refusal to release information on the late-night meeting at which the blanket bank guarantee was agreed, Mr Noonan said ministers did not have any role on what could be released under freedom of information requests.

The Government expects the inquiries legislation to be passed in the next two weeks. Committees can then apply to host a banking inquiry. Ministers say one will begin work by the autumn.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin yesterday told RTÉ that his own preference was for a Leveson type of inquiry based upon tribunal legislation overseen by a judge.

He questioned why it had taken the Government two years to move ahead with legislation following the rejection of the Oireachtas inquiries referendum.

“The Government have been anxious to delay this for as long as possible for political and electoral reasons.”

Mr Martin said the Government wanted to make the inquiry as political as possible, evidenced by recent comments from Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he “smeared” previous government members such as former taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Mr Martin said advice from both the current and a former DPP, needed to be included in any decision on setting up an inquiry.

Former DPP James Hamilton warned at the weekend that it would be “foolish” for a banking inquiry to proceed ahead of any criminal trials taking place.

Mr Martin, who was a member of the Fianna Fáil government when the bank guarantee was introduced on the night of Sept 29, 2008, added: “We are anxious to co-operate with any form of inquiry because I don’t believe there are any issues over and above what has emerged in relation to the bank guarantee that would undermine the character or case of anyone involved at the time.

“I think people acted in good faith at the time. I think there has been a strategy to suggest that we’re holding back.”

He said the biggest mistake was made several years before the guarantee, when lending exceeded normal limits. Mr Martin said this was a failure of banking regulation as well as of the previous Fianna Fáil-led government.

“I would acknowledge that there were mistakes in terms of overseeing the regulatory system of our financial and banking system,” Mr Martin said.

He said there was no evidence to suggest that there had been any underhand activity.

He said Mr Cowen was awaiting an inquiry and believed it was the proper way forward. He would “certainly take part” in any inquiry, Mr Martin added.

He said he himself had received a very short phone call about the guarantee being implemented by Mr Cowen on the night in question. Mr Martin was abroad at the time.

“The advice from the meeting that had taken place was to the effect that a collapse, that a bank guarantee, was absolutely essential,” Mr Martin said.


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