‘Overwhelming’ interest in Irish Nationwide inquiry

There is an “overwhelming” public interest in an inquiry into the collapse of Irish Nationwide Building Society which left the country with a “colossal” financial liability estimated at €5bn, a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice John Hedigan made the remark when dismissing a challenge by John Stanley Purcell, a former director, financial controller, and secretary of INBS, aimed at stopping the Central Bank’s proposed administrative inquiry over past conduct of the society’s affairs by those concerned with its management.

The fact the collapse of INBS left this country with a “colossal” liability was alone enough to outweigh Mr Purcell’s claim that the inquiry imposed a burden on him disproportionate to the public interest in inquiring into that collapse, the judge said. The public interest in knowing what happened is “overwhelming”.

The financial system needs “constant in-depth surveillance” if anything like the 2008 crash is to be avoided and “an inquest into what went wrong, and who was responsible will be an essential part of such control”.

It was to be hoped a “thorough” inquiry “will illuminate the mistakes, both corporate and personal, that brought about this collapse, which was a national financial disaster”.

He was giving his reserved judgment yesterday on two sets of proceedings by Mr Purcell against the Central Bank of Ireland and the State seeking judicial review and damages on grounds including claims his reputation and right to earn a living had been damaged because of the proposed inquiry.

Mr Justice Hedigan ruled that many of the claims advanced by Mr Purcell had been decided by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan in a High Court judgment dismissing a similar challenge by former INBS managing director Michael Fingleton to the Central Bank inquiry.

Mr Justice Noonan’s decision contained no apparent error, was based on a review of significant relevant legal authorities, and he must and would follow it, Mr Justice Hedigan said.

He dismissed claims by Mr Purcell the Central Bank had no jurisdiction to inquire into him, or of unfairness.


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