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Dáil committee agrees to draw proposals for banking inquiry

The Public Accounts Committee is to examine whether it can hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the bank guarantee.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE DÁIL’S Public Accounts Committee has agreed to draw up proposals for an investigation into the Irish banking crisis and the circumstances surrounding the bank guarantee scheme.

The committee said that if it wanted to carry out a full examination of the financial crisis, in light of the defeat of the constitutional referendum on Oireachtas inquiries, it had no choice but to examine how it could use the legal powers it already has.

The committee is also set to consider whether legislation could be enacted to give it the powers it would need to hold a full inquiry, its chairman John McGuinness (Fianna Fáil) said.

“It’s a very complex issue, so we have to discuss it with the Comptroller and Auditor General, who is doing a report on it,” McGuinness told TheJournal.ie this morning.

That report, whenever published, “might allow us to conduct an initial inquiry”, though there were “all sorts of legal issues” that would first be required.

“The DIRT inquiry, which everyone points to [as an example of an Oireachtas inquiry], was set up under specific legislation at that time, on the people it would be allowed to bring in, and so on.

“If we go into that kind of in-depth inquiry we’ll need legislation allowing us to go into compellability mode,” he said.

While the outcome of the referendum was “a game changer”, McGuinness said the committee was determined not to allow the outcome of the referendum to mean that key individuals in the banking crisis could escape the proper scrutiny.

“Our legal advice is that the Abbeylara judgement recognised that the [committee] could continue to examine issues and could make findings showing culpability, for instance for waste of public money.

“We want to establish whether that capacity to make findings, together with the fact that the [committee] has greater powers than other Committees, can be used to hold to account those responsible for almost bankrupting this State.”

Fine Gael’s Eoghan Murphy this morning said it was “essential” that the committee tries to carry out “as comprehensive an investigation as possible under its existing powers.”

The committee is to write to the minister for public expenditure, Brendan Howlin, next week outlining its proposals for the inquiry.

Amendment on Oireachtas inquiries is defeated >

Howlin hints that if Committee amendment doesn’t pass… it won’t be end of it >

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Gavan Reilly

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