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'I listened to a lot of hysteria': Enda breaks his silence on Denis O'Brien and IBRC

The Taoiseach has made his first public comments since the controversy escalated a week ago.

ENDA KENNY HAS made his first public comments since the controversy over businessman Denis O’Brien’s dealings with IBRC escalated a week ago.

Speaking to the media in Dublin today, the Taoiseach said he had listened “to a lot of hysteria” about calls for the Dáil to be recalled this week, insisting that the house had “no control” over a matter before the courts.

He welcomed clarification that the media can report comments independent TD Catherine Murphy made in the Dáil about O’Brien’s dealings with the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Kenny also said that the Commission of Investigation established yesterday would bring a “different level of independence and authority and objectivity” to the matter.

It will examine up to 40 IBRC transactions that resulted in a loss of €10m or more to taxpayers, including the controversial Siteserv transaction.

The Taoiseach noted that there had so far been ”no evidence of wrongdoing” in these matters.

He was speaking after launching the 2016 college American football game between Boston College and Georgia Tech, which will take place on Saturday 3 September 2016.

Here’s the full Q&A with journalists at the Mansion House this lunchtime… 

Q: Taoiseach, you’ve remained silent on all the issues related to Denis O’Brien, IBRC, Siteserv over the last week. Why haven’t you spoken until now? 

A: Well I listened to a lot of hysteria about recalling the Dáil to talk about something over which the Dáil had no control.

I’ve always been a very staunch defender of the right of elected representatives to the Dáil to be able to speak their minds and say their piece, with responsibility, and the judge in the court cleared and clarified that issue very quickly indeed.

So the call to me, which I refused, to recall the Dáil to discuss something over which it had no function wasn’t necessary.

Yesterday, we had a very comprehensive cabinet meeting, including a discussion, and a decision, to bring this to a different level of independence and authority and objectivity by establishing a Commission of Investigation and the Minister for Finance has set out the reasons for so doing.

I think that’s the right thing to do. I think it allows for a justice of the court to oversee, as a sole member, a Commission of Investigation to oversee the issues about which there is no evidence of wrongdoing I have to say.

Q: How much do you now regret not setting a Commission of Inquiry before now?

I don’t actually because in the beginning what we wanted to do was to bring the information around the allegations that were being made to the public and to the house as quickly as possible. Because the special liquidator was in possession of all the files the Minister asked that he would bring a report to him by the end of August which would be published and given to the Dáíl but also to the Public Accounts Committee and the intention was that if it was necessary afterwards to have a further investigation independently that that would be done.

But events have since overtaken that so it’s right and proper now that there be the decision that we made yesterday to have a Commission of Investigation and allow for that to happen, under the direction of a justice.

Q: A lot of our problems have stemmed from light-touch regulation in the financial sector. Do you think that the case could be made that the Department of Finance and, arguably, the Minister for Finance himself has shown a lot of light-touch regulation in relation to IBRC? 

Well, as the minister has pointed out in all of these matters, there are assertions and allegations but the judge in the court clarified himself that there wasn’t an identification of incompetence at governance level in IBRC and obviously the personnel who worked for that board have defended their decisions very robustly indeed.

So, given the fact that you are likely to have lots of claims and counter claims, I think the best thing now is to follow the decision made by government and have the Commission of Investigation and let the justice deal with that under his own direction and authority and, whatever else, we do respect the independence and the authority of the judiciary in matters like this.

Q: Denis O’Brien, who is at the centre of this, is obviously a man of great power and influence. Should the public have any concern about the extent of his power and influence in Irish society? 

Well, obviously there are regulations and rules governing the ownership of media outlets and communications and that’s a matter that the Minister for Communications, you know, keeps under observation but there are legislative conditions set down here.

So, I wouldn’t comment on any individual in particular, but I do note that the justice in his decision did say that any individual is entitled to privacy but that clearly in particular circumstances the public good can override the requirement that that might apply in cases like that.

IBRC inquiry: Department of Finance reveals details of filing error

Read: Here is the article that Denis O’Brien’s lawyers didn’t want you to see last Thursday

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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