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'A dog's dinner': Banking inquiry could be delayed as government tries to sort out its own mess

With membership of the committee still not finalised the inquiry into the collapse of the Irish banking system is already facing a race against time.

Labour TD Ciarán Lynch is chairing the inquiry
Labour TD Ciarán Lynch is chairing the inquiry
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THERE IS CONCERN that the banking inquiry may be unable to get its terms of reference established before the Dáil goes on holidays for the summer as the membership of the committee set up to probe the financial collapse is still not finalised.

The nine-member committee, made up of seven TDs and two senators, was due to meet for the first time this coming Wednesday morning at Leinster House, but its membership is still not finalised and it’s now unclear when the first meeting will happen.

One member, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty is concerned that terms of reference will not be established before the Dáil recess in July, delaying the progress of the investigation.

He said: “We’re probably up against a tight time-frame. If we don’t get that [terms of reference] done before the recess then we miss the boat. It’s important that they’re done so we can get stuck in when we come back in September.”

The membership issue follows the Seanad selection committee’s decision to ignore a government recommendation that Labour’s Susan O’Keeffe serve on the committee and instead voted on Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry along with independent senator Seán Barrett.

A number of coalition senators, including O’Keeffe herself, were absent for the vote.

The government had hoped to have one government and one opposition senator serve on the committee in order to ensure it had a majority. However this was not specifically stated in the motion that went to the Seanad, freeing opposition senators to nominate who they wished.

One source close the committee admitting the absence of any clear reference to one government and one opposition senator was  a “f*** up”.

‘Nine men in a bunker’

There was a lengthy row in the upper house last Thursday after it was suggested that MacSharry had a “conflict of interest” that would prevent him from being part of the inquiry – a claim later withdrawn.

The current composition of the committee means the opposition holds the balance of power by 5 to 4.

The committee membership includes on the government side Fine Gael TDs Kieran O’Donnell, John Paul Phelan, and Eoghan Murphy as well as Labour’s Ciarán Lynch (the chairman). The opposition deputies are Doherty, Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath and independent Stephen Donnelly and, as it stands, senators MacSharry and Barrett.

It remains unclear how the government attempts to reverse MacSharry’s nomination and add O’Keeffe but it may be done by forcing a vote on the floor of the upper house early next week.  This is likely to be met with strong and vocal criticism from the opposition parties particularly Fianna Fáil.

O’Keeffe declined to comment on the situation when contacted yesterday, but said she expected “some clarity” to emerge next week.

She also defended her absence for the selection vote saying she had been given “unbelievably short notice” and had family commitments in Sligo that she had notified the Labour whip about last September.

Doherty described the events this week as “a dog’s dinner”, adding:  ”If we can’t even nominate people onto the inquiry how are we going to be able to deal with the bigger issues?”

He also hit out at the absence of any women on the inquiry as it is currently constituted, saying: “The proposal before us is nine men sitting in a bunker for the year.”

Read: Banking inquiry ‘rocked’ after lengthy row over senator’s ‘conflict of interest’

Read: Enda Kenny has ‘no responsibility’ to tell TDs what he thinks of Trichet’s banking inquiry snub

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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