Q&A: Fears of chaos at banking inquiry

Q: Why are there concerns that the Oireachtas banking inquiry could collapse or is descending into chaos?

Q&A: Fears of chaos at banking inquiry

A: Some members are objecting to former Anglo boss David Drumm potentially giving evidence by video link from the United States. The TDs or senators could face expulsion from the probe.It is now entering unchartered waters and, if some individuals were expelled, it remains unclear if the probe would still hold the public’s confidence.

Furthermore, it has been rocked by allegations of inappropriate behaviour by a whistleblower which has resulted in the inquiry having a barrister examine the banking probe itself.

Q: Will these issues actually result in the inquiry coming to a sudden halt or delaying its work?

A: It is the summer time and, at the moment, the banking inquiry is the only story in town.

It has previously overcome legal difficulties on admitting sensitive Central Bank documents before, and hearing outside evidence from former European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet.

While this latest legal issue is unprecedented, there are also moral issues at stake.

How would government TDs be perceived if the former Anglo CEO got away with a light hearing and being able to make his points comfortably by video-despite the banking crash and the bank’s part in it?

Overall, it is likely the whole matter will be decided by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Nonetheless, if a legal challenge was brought by a witness against Mr Drumm’s evidence, it is not unimaginable that this could prolong the inquiry’s work.

Q: What will be decided this week on Mr Drumm’s evidence and how will this affect the inquiry?

A: The DPP will give its advice today on whether Mr Drumm’s evidence is admissible or whether, like previous scheduled Anglo bankers, it might prejudice any court proceedings. The inquiry’s own legal team will also give its advice on the issue, which will reveal whether Mr Drumm can be sworn in or not in any video link.

Inquiry members will then consider these two separate pieces of advice and decide tomorrow whether or not to hear the evidence.

The inquiry this week will also hear from former Anglo non-executive director Fintan Drury who, Mr Drumm is alleged to have said, used economist Alan Gray to approach former Taoiseach Brian Cowen about Anglo and the bank guarantee.

Q: Why is the evidence of former Anglo CEO David Drumm so important to the banking inquiry?

A: Not one official from Anglo Irish Bank has yet appeared before the inquiry, designed to look into the causes of the banking crash. Due to the ongoing Anglo court case, ex-chairman Sean FitzPatrick and directors John Bowe and Pat Whelen will not appear before it.

It has also been snubbed by Anglo former director Tom Browne.

While some inquiry members concede Mr Drumm’s evidence could be “juicy”, they warn he would escape from a full grilling in Dublin before the committee and is setting the terms of his evidence.

Q: Have others given video evidence to inquiries before?

A: The Planning Tribunal previously got approval from the High Court in 1999 to hear from developer Joseph Murphy Snr by video link, due to his illness. The North’s historical abuse inquiry has also being using video link evidence during proceedings. The Morris Tribunal, which looked at garda corruption, previously used video link evidence in 2006.

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