Sweeping powers for bank inquiry

Bankers living abroad and other high-ranking officials linked to the night of the bank guarantee will be compelled to attend the Government’s promised banking inquiry under new powers announced.

Witnesses will be compelled to give evidence, possibly under oath. However, no findings of adversity can be made against individuals in an inquiry.

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen will also co-operate with the banking inquiry, his brother, Fianna Fáil TD Barry, said yesterday.

Legislation to establish a framework for Oireachtas inquiries, published yesterday, provides for five types of investigations.

The new inquiries will also be able to look into the conduct of a current officeholder, senior civil servant, or a CEO of a public body and can also compel judges to appear before inquiries.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin yesterday indicated the regulations would allow an investigation into the circumstances leading up and surrounding the night of the infamous banking guarantee in Sept 2008

“This legislation is essential to conducting a parliamentary banking inquiry,” said Mr Howlin.

The five types of inquiries will include a straightforward ‘narrative’ inquiry with no findings, probes into the removal of an officeholder, the conduct of a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas (which can include the president,) as well as any inquiry to hold the current Government to account.

The legislation also allows witnesses to recoup legal costs if their good name is called into question.

Section 65 of the Bill allows Irish citizens abroad and non-nationals in Ireland to be subject to “compellability” to give evidence or documents.

This rule could be applied to former Anglo Irish Bank CEO David Drumm, who lives in the US, but headed up the bank when the guarantee was sanctioned.

Investment bankers with international consultants Merrill Lynch, who advised the Government about the guarantee, some who are based in London, could also be called to attend.

Under the new legislation, the setting-up of inquiries will have to be approved by the Dáil and Seanad.


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