Laws to compel witnesses to appear will not apply to Mr Trichet because he lives outside of Ireland, but it is hoped that the current membership of the ECB might show a different attitude and insist on a greater degree of co-operation.
The terms of reference for the inquiry have not yet been drawn up, but it’s expected that members will want to examine the role of the ECB in the aftermath of the banking collapse — in particular its refusal to allow the government to burn senior bondholders in bailed-out banks. This would involve calling its current president, Mario Draghi, and, more importantly his predecessor, Mr Trichet, as witnesses before a public inquiry.
However, Mr Trichet recently said he has no intention of appearing because the bank guarantee was done by the government “without consultation” and the ECB rules mean he does not have to answer to national parliaments.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Lynch said the question of whether Mr Trichet appears or not “is a matter to be decided in the context of the committee’s terms of reference”.
He said “it is disappointing that a senior public servant who has served in such a senior position representing the European Union and its community does not feel obligated to give an account of his actions and decisions in that role”.
The Labour Party TD also made it clear that any member of the nine-person inquiry team who shows signs of political bias during its hearings will be removed. “There will not be space for the politicising of the process,” he said. “The legislation is very clear that if people engage in such behaviour or engage in showboating they can actually be removed off the inquiry.”
The team will be made up of five Government and four opposition members, including Mr Lynch.
Mr Lynch said he would not be drawn on the time span to be covered by the probe, other than that it would include the night of the September 2008 bank guarantee, because this is “ultimately a decision for the inquiry team”.
However, he said it “does have to be a measurable body of work that can be done within a specific timeframe”.
Asked if the Government majority would be used to ensure its own decisions and actions were not covered, he said, again, it’s a decision of committee members to decide and “my job is to ensure that this is done my means of cooperation and consensus.” The Cork South Central TD said parliamentary inquiries are an established model and have proven to work in other democracies and this will be the first opportunity to show they can work in Ireland as well. “It’s necessary that the inquiry team approach it with open minds. Nobody has a monopoly on wisdom and no one should prejudge the outcome of the inquiry,” he said. “This is an opportunity to show an example of the parliament at its best and is an opportunity for politicians to leave their club jerseys at thee committee room door and do an important job of work on behalf of the Irish people,” he added.