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'Good cop/bad cop' claims lead to call for banking inquiry to 'remove cloak of secrecy'

Claims and counter-claims have led to a split among members of the inquiry and a call for the investigation into the banking collapse to move into public session.

Image: Photocall Ireland

A SPLIT HAS emerged among members of the banking inquiry committee leading to a call for the investigation to move into public session.

It follows claims from some members of the Oireachtas committee that Fianna Fàil members are trying to undermine the progress of the probe into the €64 billion bank guarantee six years ago.

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath has said that the inquiry should move to public session in the wake of accusations that he and party colleague Marc MacSharry are adopting a ‘good cop/bad cop’ approach in meetings.

Three members of the committee, from coalition and opposition sides, have told TheJournal.ie that Fianna Fáil is obstructing the inquiry with its tactics during the first two behind closed doors meetings held in the past fortnight.

The members of the committee who spoke to this website – but all declined to be named – indicated that MacSharry in particular is seeking to make the same points repeatedly, frustrating progress as well as making political statements during meetings.

MacSharry said he was amazed by the claims and said no issues had been raised with him.

“The one thing I want to see is the whole truth based on the facts not a version of the truth based on some of the facts,” he said, adding that he made “no apology” for this.

The senator is being portrayed as the ‘bad cop’ to McGrath’s ‘good cop’ by the committee members who spoke to this website. They are of the view that it is a coordinated attempt by Fianna Fáil to frustrate the progress of the inquiry.

One committee member said that Fianna Fáil’s approach to the inquiry indicates they “are trying to undermine it, and possibly collapse it.”

But MacSharry rejected such claims and said: “Michael [McGrath] and I are there as parliamentarians who leave the jersey at the door and go in to the best job that we can.”

McGrath also rejected the claims describing them as “utter nonsense” and said the inquiry should move into public session to avoid “private briefings”.

“If we’re going to have a situation where people are going to come out of private meetings and give private briefings about what was said, and their interpretation, then we might as well remove the cloak of secrecy and meet in public session,” he said.

Inquiry mired in controversy

MacSharry was added to the inquiry committee in controversial circumstances earlier this month after the government lost a vote of the Seanad Selection Committee and Fianna Fáil succeeded in adding him.

Fine Gael’s Seanad leader Maurice Cummins then tried to suggest there was a ‘conflict of interest’ that would prevent MacSharry from serving but later withdrew the claim. The government then added two of its own senators to restore its majority leading to an outcry from opposition parties and the resignation of independent TD Stephen Donnelly.

Fianna Fáil has already publicly described as “a setback” news that the inquiry won’t be able to examine 30 minutes of a crucial Cabinet meeting on the night the bank guarantee with McGrath saying last week it was “a ridiculous situation”.

The party’s stance is in contrast to other members’ reaction to that news, including Sinn Féin whose committee member Pearse Doherty pointed out last week that it was always known the committee would be restricted by the constitutional protection applied to Cabinet meetings.

Committee chairman Ciarán Lynch, a Labour TD, has also insisted last Thursday that the inability to examine that 30-minute meeting will not hinder the inquiry given it has access to previously unpublished documents and will be able to examine the events leading up to and following that Cabinet meeting.

Privately one member of the committee told TheJournal.ie that the legal advice in Thursday’s meeting had been broadly positive – the inquiry would have access to all documents – but they said that Fianna Fáil had been briefing to the contrary.

MacSharry said “people interpret things in different ways” but said it has always been his party’s position that it would “prefer the Leveson-style inquiry and that remains our position”. He said that Fianna Fáil is “committed to cooperating and help as best we can”.

McGrath added that he stood over his view that it was “ridiculous situation” that the inquiry cannot access details of the Cabinet meeting in question.

‘Ridiculous’: The banking inquiry won’t be able to discuss 30 minutes of a crucial Cabinet meeting

VIDEO: Kenny says banking inquiry will be free of government interference – TDs burst into laughter

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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