The Government lost its expected edge on the nine-member probe because Labour senators failed to turn up for a nomination vote last week, so the Coalition extended the membership to 11 in order to outnumber the opposition on the long-awaited inquiry.
The move provoked uproar in the Seanad, with Fianna Fáil Senator Ned O’Sullivan saying that the Taoiseach was “coming in to dump down on this House in a way that Hitler himself with the Enabling Act would have been ashamed of”.
“He has no interest in a real meaningful banking inquiry.”
No debate was allowed on the Government motion to add Labour’s Susan O’Keeffe and Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy to the committee conducting the banking investigation and ensuring the Coalition had a 6-5 majority. Opposition senators angrily branded the move “anti-democratic” and compared it to what went on in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin.
Mr Kenny insisted the committee needed a Government majority before it could decide its terms of reference.
Senator Paul Bradford, who was thrown out of Fine Gael for voting against X-Case legislation, said it was an attempt to ride roughshod over the voters’ rejection of the Government at last month’s European and local elections.
“On Thursday June 12 the moral authority of the current Government disappeared and Seanad Éireann entered into an arena of disrepute,” Senator Bradford said.
Sinn Féin, which does not have a representative on the committee, described the Government action as a “sham”.
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said the additional members were needed because Fianna Fáil had carried out an “ambush” at the nominating committee when Government senators had failed to turn-up.
Fine Gael’s Seanad leader Maurice Cummings has said that there was an “understanding” that the Government would have a majority on the probe.
Mr Cummings was forced to withdraw an accusation that Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry was unsuitable for the investigation because he had a “conflict of interest”.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore provoked anger in the Dáil when he accused Fianna Fáil of engaging in a “stroke” by getting Mr MacSharry elected to the investigating panel.
The Government won the Seanad vote to add two extra members to the investigation — which is chaired by Cork Labour TD Ciarán Lynch — by 26-21.