Ex-taoisigh ‘will appear at bank inquiry’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny expects taoisigh will appear before the long-awaited Oireachtas banking inquiry, which is expected to begin hearings in advance of next year’s European and local elections.

“I don’t think there will be any reluctance on any of my predecessors in the office to give [evidence] at the hearing of the banking inquiry,” he said.

Former taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen are expected to be requested to give evidence and explain their roles in the run up to the €440bn bank guarantee of September 2008.

Mr Ahern has not yet said if he will attend but Mr Cowen recently told the Irish Examiner he is available to appear before whatever mechanism the Oireachtas puts in place. Among others likely to make appearances are the former financial regulator Patrick Neary and senior officials from the Department of Finance.

Mr Kenny said with careful planning, the inquiry could do its work without affecting current court cases where a number of senior banking executives are on trial.

Mr Kenny pointed to the success of the Oireachtas DIRT Inquiry into tax evasion in the late 1990s which underwent considerable preparatory work while a number of cases were before the courts.

“I’ve had this before with the DIRT Inquiry, where actually there was a five- or six-month lead-in preparation for the people that served on the DIRT Inquiry, not to infringe or impact upon elements of court cases that were being taken,” he said.

The inquiry will be held under the new Oireachtas inquiries legislation, passed earlier this year, and will focus on the period leading up to the €440bn bank guarantee introduced by the Fianna Fáil/Green government in September 2008. It equated to 261% of GDP.

No time limit has been placed but its expected to last a full year and cost in the region of €3m.

It hasn’t yet been decided whether it will be conducted by the Finance Committee chaired by Labour TD Ciarán Lynch, or the Public Accounts Committee chaired by Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness.

Mr Kenny said it was a matter for the Committee of Procedures and Privileges in the Oireachtas.

The televised inquiry will only have the powers to lay out a factual account as to what happened and it will not be able to blame anyone.

As well as the role of senior bankers, it will also examine the auditors who signed off on the banks at the time and the state institutions such as the Department of Finance, the Central Bank and the financial regulator.


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