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One simple thing could make the entire banking inquiry null and void

Over €5 million could go down the drain…

THOUGH MUCH CRITICISED in recent months, the banking inquiry is due to issue its final report into Ireland’s economic crash early next year.

Originally due to report in November, the inquiry’s progress has been delayed by whistleblower allegations that proved to be entirely unfounded following an inquiry by a senior counsel.

Chairman Ciarán Lynch said this week that in light of the delay the committee would seek an extension until 28 January to publish its final report. This is likely to add to the €5 million cost of the inquiry so far.

But the millions of euro, hundreds of hours, 128 witnesses over 49 days, and retrieval of 50,000 documents amounting to hundreds of thousands of pages could all be for nothing if an election is called prior to the publication of the final report.

Under the Inquiries Act the committee will be formally “terminated” once the Dáil is dissolved, a situation which arises if and when Taoiseach Enda Kenny decides to call a general election.

8/7/2015 Banking Inquiries Committee chairman Ciarán Lynch Source: Leah Farrell/Photocall Ireland

If Kenny goes to the country after the October Budget – as some speculate he could – the inquiry would be unable to issue a final report.

It’s understood the inquiry has taken legal advice on the circumstances in which it could complete its work in the new Dáil.

Doing so would require all of its members to be re-elected to the Dáil and Seanad and for the committee to be reconstituted by the next government, a source explained.

“It depends on the membership of the committee and whether they all get back in, and then you have to wait for government to be formed, then you have to wait for the Seanad elections,” the source said.

However this would be impossible given Socialist TD Joe Higgins has already indicated his intention to retire at the next election. While Lynch, a Labour TD, is among those inquiry members who are facing an uphill battle to retain their Dáil seats.

In effect the inquiry’s entire status hinges on an election NOT being held until early next year and after it issues its final report.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 12.26.04 The banking inquiry in action Source: Oireachtas TV

Meanwhile, following the completion of public hearings this week, the committee members and inquiry staff will now begin to compile its final report and recommendations.

This process will involve a trawl through hundreds of hours of transcripts from the public hearings and members of the inquiry inputting their own views and recommendations into what will be the final report.

Witnesses who came before the inquiry in recent months may also be written to for clarifications regarding their evidence.

This correspondence is likely to include Enda Kenny being contacted in relation to evidence from former Anglo executive Matt Moran which appeared to contradict what the Taoiseach told the inquiry about contact between the pair in January 2009.

Some members have stressed that the final report should not echo those already published in relation to the banking crisis.

Ex-Anglo CFO: “I don’t think anyone foresaw the scale of crisis”

Read: Is the banking inquiry on the verge of collapse?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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