Bank inquiry forced to dump key sections to get report out before general election

The banking inquiry has been forced to dump or water down significant portions of its work in a bid to produce a final report in time for next year’s general election.
Bank inquiry forced to dump key sections to get report out before general election
Michael McGrath

The areas affected include a specific focus on the relationship between bankers, developers, and politicians.

The decision to significantly water down the report comes as inquiry chairman and Labour TD Ciarán Lynch is facing questions over his handling of the committee’s work.

Particularly, Mr Lynch is under fire as to why other committee members were “kept in the dark” until the last minute about grave concerns relating to the content and tone of the draft final report, which ran to 750 pages.

Several inquiry sources have confirmed to the Irish Examiner that such concerns were being voiced up to five weeks ago, but they went unaddressed.

It is understood that senior counsel for the inquiry gave members a briefing last Saturday outlining concerns around inaccuracies, not just legal ones, contained in the draft report.

While one or two committee members were refusing to “push the chairman under the bus” over the crisis to hit the inquiry, Mr Lynch’s failure to inform the rest of the committee has angered other members.

“He is the chairman and clearly there are questions that need to be asked about how this mess happened,” said one member of the inquiry last night. “However, given the tight deadline, we don’t have the time to do that properly just now.”

At a meeting of the inquiry yesterday, members agreed to excise large portions of the 750-page draft report to produce a document of 250 to 400 pages in 11 chapters.

During the 10 months of public hearings, the inquiry heard from 128 witnesses, but the final report will only deal with “new information” that emerged in hearings.

According to inquiry sources, any matters not related to the banks, the 2008 bank guarantee, or the 2010 troika bailout will no longer be given full attention.

Among the sections being sacrificed are:

  • Areas already covered by previous banking reports into the crash, meaning much of the so-called background ‘context’ phase of the inquiry;
  • The role of the media in the crash;
  • The impact of connections between bankers, politicians and developers which is likely to prove too legally problematic for inclusion.

Mr Lynch said last night he was aware that challenges within the backroom investigation team were taking place for a number of weeks before the issues surrounding the draft became public.

Ciaran Lynch
Ciaran Lynch

However, he said that, despite being a member of the steering group with the inquiry’s legal and backroom team, he was only given updates on the progress of the report.

Mr Lynch said there is complete unity in the committee even though the deadlines it has operated under have been challenging.

“I received the draft report like everybody last week, and it was never the final product. There’s complete unity in the committee,” he said.

However, other committee members, speaking privately last night, were less enthusiastic about the final report.

“It is about getting a report out of any kind at this stage so we can at least get the recommendations out there,” said one inquiry member.

The deadline of next Tuesday will now not be met and the report will not be finalised before the following weekend at the earliest.

If the members can agree a final report, it will be circulated to interested parties in early December to allow for publication in January as originally planned, a spokesman for the inquiry said.

Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath said every effort was being made to have the document ready for January. He said a draft report, running to around 750 pages, was made available to members last week and there was a view that the document needed a lot of work.

Michael McGrath
Michael McGrath

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