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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Screengrab/Oireachtas TV Senator Marc MacSharry's nomination to the banking inquiry has caused controversy
# Seanad-igans
Banking inquiry 'rocked' after lengthy row over senator's 'conflict of interest'
Angry scenes in the upper house after a claim that a senator has a conflict of interest, preventing him from serving on the banking inquiry, is later withdrawn.

Updated 11.00pm 

SEANAD LEADER MAURICE Cummins has withdrawn a claim that an unknown conflict of interest would prevent a Fianna Fáil senator from serving on the forthcoming banking inquiry.

It follows a lengthy row in the upper house this morning and this afternoon after Cummins, a Fine Gael senator, said that Marc MacSharry could have a “conflict of interest” that would prevent him from serving on the probe into the collapse of the Irish banking system.

After the Seanad adjourned a number of times, Cummins has this afternoon withdrawn the remark, saying he had no intention of impugning MacSharry’s name. However, Fianna Fáil’s leader in the Seanad, Darragh O’Brien, said the foundations of the banking inquiry committee had been “rocked” by the controversy.

The row this morning followed a vote of the Seanad Committee on Selection last night which placed independent senator and Trinity economist Seán Barrett and MacSharry on the nine-strong committee.

Government efforts to put Labour’s Susan O’Keeffe on the inquiry failed due to the absence of a number of coalition senators meaning it does not now have a majority on the inquiry.

O’Brien said this morning that the decision was “valid” and “democratic” but it’s believed the government is seeking to overturn it.

Finana Fáil pushed for the Seanad to be suspended after Cummins raised the conflict of interest claim without elaborating on what it is. MacSharry said that “as a member of the House and as a citizen of Ireland I am entitled to some level of protection from the chair”.

MacSharry accused Cummins of “impugning my character” while his party colleague Thomas Byrne asked for the claim to be withdrawn saying it had “poisoned” the banking inquiry process.

The Seanad was suspended a number of times until senators eventually returned and Cummins said he was prepared to withdraw his remarks.

‘General belief’

Earlier, Cummins had proposed that Barrett and MacSharry’s nomination to the inquiry be referred to the Committee on Procedures and Privileges given there had been a “general belief” there would be one government and one opposition senator on the inquiry and not two opposition members.

However he acknowledged that the motion before the Seanad did not explicitly state the requirement for one government and one opposition member.

“I am suggesting to refer the matter to the Committee on Procedures and Privileges and the matter will be investigated,” he said.

Prior to that O’Brien said that the lack of a government majority “would make no difference at all if it is to be an independent inquiry”.

“I am assuming the government will accept the democratic decision of an independent committee of the Seanad,” he said, noting that it was as far back as 1982 that a committee of selection decision had been challenged.

Fianna Fáil senator Terry Leyden said MacSharry was “a man of the greatest integrity” and claimed that the inquiry should not take place if his party colleague is removed from it.

Fine Gael’s Catherine Noone noted that the current composition of the committee means there are no women on the inquiry team, describing this as a “pretty damning indictment of politics today when it comes to gender balance”.

Senator Paul Bradford, formerly of Fine Gael and who voted for MacSharry’s inclusion, said that the Standing Orders of the Seanad stated that the committee was tasked with nominating members which he said was a “job of work which we completed”.

He said that the outcome of that process must be respected.

MORE: Government set to overturn rejection of Labour senator from banking inquiry

Read: TDs decide not to put Peter Mathews on the banking inquiry

Read: These Fine Gael TDs will serve on banking inquiry – but no decision on second Labour member

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