Unlike Luis Suarez, the banking probe has no bite

BANKING inquiries with less bite than a toothless Luis Suarez, jobs for Coalition cronies, and double-digit house price rises — it’s just like the bad old days of Fianna Fáil all over again.

Unlike Luis Suarez, the banking probe has no bite

This is a party blessed with a leader, in Micheál Martin, who insists he is ready to run the country, yet is unable to keep his lone MEP in line.

But, then, that ‘credible’ opposition of 2010 soon turned into the incredible Government we have now — as in, it seems to want to shed by the day any remaining crumbs of cred’ it has.

Already holed below the water-line by Enda Kenny’s blatant politicisation of the Oireachtas banking probe, the inquiry is sinking fast under the waves of irrelevance with the news it will not be able to examine papers covered by Cabinet confidentiality.

So, far from getting to the heart of what went wrong on the night of September 29, 2008, when Brian Cowen and Co flushed €64bn of our money down the bank-guarantee drain, it cannot even be used by Mr Kenny and Co as a crude, tax-payer-funded, party-political tool to bash Fianna Fáil with in the run-up to the slated 2016 general election

This is all very frustrating for the many members of the probe (including Coalition ones) who wanted to get to the truth, but again highlights the ham-fisted, unlucky touch that has become the hallmark of this Government.

With key actors like ECB former president, Jean Claude Trichet, refusing to take to the stage, the banking probe was already heavily unbalanced, but now there are real question marks over whether there is any point in it whatsoever.

Especially as it only lives for as long as the present Dáil does, and, with the Coalition crumbling, we may well see a general election before the investigation is supposed to deliver its finding (which cannot even apportion blame) by November of next year.

Far better to have a swift, effective, judge-led probe, along the lines of the Leveson inquiry into the excesses of British tabloid culture, than stagger on with this.

And Mr Kenny has no-one to blame for the mess but himself.

His insistence that the probe must have an in-built Government majority to decide its terms of reference stripped the whole exercise of independent legitimacy.

So, instead of terms of reference the public could trust, it just looked like Mr Kenny had insisted on terms of deference to himself.

The investigation now has extra unwanted members packed onto it by a tetchy Taoiseach, and does not have the Cabinet papers it sorely needs.

With such a cack-handed approach to consensus politics, only someone as desperate as British Tory prime minister, David Cameron, could seriously want Mr Kenny to take over the running of the European establishment.

Indeed, with the ‘game changer’ pay-back of the bank guarantee now dead to it, sending Mr Kenny to Brussels could have been a suitable act of revenge, though perhaps a tad kamikaze.

But ‘jobs for the boys’ seems to be the order of the day for this Government, as Cabinet Ministers unlikely to survive the reshuffle help political cronies onto the State boards that we were promised would be opened up by the “democratic revolution” the Coalition would usher in.

But that seems to have gone the way of the promise to rescue families from mortgage misery, as 22% price rises in Dublin signal another boom-and-bust bubble.

Indeed, Brussels appears to be the dumping ground of choice for a Coalition so consumed by its own incompetence it is letting two of its biggest failures battle it out for the lucrative little commissionership: Phil Hogan and Eamon Gilmore are engaging in an unseemly fight for the one seat in the lifeboat that gets them out of the Dáil.

It’s a bit like a political Eurovision, where we seem to select the most obvious loser to represent Ireland, as Hogan, who gave us the outrageously unfair flat household charge, which morphed into the hated property tax, as well as the Irish Water fiasco, faces down Mr Gilmore, who hid in the foreign affairs department for three years and then took Labour to such a humiliating defeat he had no option but to stand down as leader.

But is Ireland holding back its nuclear option? Surely, if we really wanted to punish the pesky Europeans for leaving us out on a limb over bank debt we would unleash James Reilly on them, as everything he seems to do turns to disaster.

When the post-Budget health-spending cuts were laid out last autumn, the most glaring piece of the makey-uppey mathematics was the section relating to the €108m that would be culled from “unspecified” areas.

When this column asked the head of the HSE if he could attempt to specify where these unspecified savings would come from, he showed an amazing lack of self-awareness and insisted we had missed the meaning of the word unspecified.

When we pointed out that, actually, we had not, and the question was intended to highlight the ridiculousness of the spending plans and the HSE’s general reputation for budgetary incompetence, the rather hurt-sounding HSE head insisted that was terribly unfair of us and the organisation would, indeed, deliver on its funding plans.

Now, we all know how that turned out.

But, like the 18-month onslaught on the sick and the vulnerable unleashed by the medical-card cull, it all came as something of a shock to Mr Kenny and Health Minister Dr Reilly, who have been assuring us, all year, that there would be no need for an emergency health budget.

And, yet, here we are, again, with just that scenario — and they attack Sinn Féin and the lefty independents for fantasy finances?

The prospect of Greece leaving the Euro was dubbed the Grexit, Britain leaving the EU is being called the Brexit, but getting rid of Dr Reilly, by sending him to Brussels, would be the ultimate payback — the Rexit — which is most fitting as, from medical cards to health budgets, whatever he’s put in charge of he wrecks it.

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