Gilmore: Bank probe would be priority

A BANKING inquiry will be a priority for the Government if voters give parliamentary members tougher investigative powers in next month’s referendum, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.

The Labour leader indicated that a banking inquiry would be the first investigation launched if the referendum passed, and it would see bankers questioned by TDs and senators.

Earlier this week, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin replied to Dublin academic Colum Kenny’s appeal to probe the reckless lending habits of banks, saying politicians would be in a position to carry out a banking inquiry in “a public forum in a robust, cost efficient and democratic manner”. But it depends on the outcome of the October 27 vote.

Mr Gilmore backed his Cabinet colleague’s comments yesterday, saying an inquiry would be a priority.

“That’s one of the most immediate reasons why we’re having the referendum. The Government has been very clear from the time of our formation that we want to have a proper inquiry into the disaster that occurred in Irish banking.”

While the wording of the referendum does not compel individuals to attend any Oireachtas inquiry, Mr Gilmore said pressure would come to bear on witnesses called during any probe into the banks.

“I think that there will be an absolute lack of tolerance by the public with anybody who does not co-operate with that inquiry,” he said.

“What we have to do first of all is to ensure that there is a sound constitutional basis for parliamentary inquiries, that people in this case in relation to what happened in banking can be called before the representatives of the people and answer questions about what happened and their stewardship and so on and we’re determined to do that.”

Meanwhile, taxpayers were last night promised there would be only one more “super payoff” in the civil service.

Mr Howlin dismissed claims that a raft of retirees were in line for the same level of pension package given to the Government’s former secretary general, Dermot McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy’s severance deal totalled over €700,000, causing political shockwaves after it was revealed.

Mr Howlin told the Dáil Finance Committee such generous arrangements would only be given to one other senior civil servant before reforms come into effect next February.

Mr Howlin also said the cost of public service pensions will be €2.9 billion this year and confirmed new pension arrangements for the public service would be lunched this month.

A maximum retirement age of 70 will be imposed and pensions will be based on career average earnings, not final salaries for new entrants.

More in this section