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Efforts to add Labour senator Susan O'Keeffe to the inquiry have so far failed Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Here's how the government could restore its majority on the banking inquiry

The first meeting of the special Oireachtas Committee was due to get underway tomorrow but has now been postponed indefinitely amid a row over the number of government members on the inquiry.

THE GOVERNMENT COULD increase the number of its members serving on the banking inquiry in order to ensure it has a majority.

A government source close to the inquiry said that this is one of the options that could be looked at in the wake of the coalition losing its majority on the special Oireachtas committee.

The banking inquiry is currently made up of nine members – five opposition and four government – but the coalition could add two more to ensure it has a majority.

However the source cautioned that this is not yet being actively considered as the row over the loss of the government’s majority threatens to stall the investigation into the collapse of the Irish banking system by a number of weeks.

The first meeting of the special Oireachtas Committee was due to get underway tomorrow but has now been postponed indefinitely.

This follows opposition senators success in adding Fianna Fáil senator MacSharry to the inquiry team last week after a number of government senators missed a crucial vote of the Seanad selection committee.

MacSharry was added along with independent senator Seán Barrett, increasing the number of opposition members on the committee to five and leaving the coalition with four.

Government efforts to add Labour senator Susan O’Keeffe to the inquiry failed after she and her party colleague Lorraine Higgins missed the selection committee meeting.

The source said increasing the number of members is one of three options, the other two being to table a motion blocking the addition of MacSharry to the committee or to apply a ‘bias test’ to the senator.

Last week Fine Gael’s leader in the Seanad Maurice Cummins suggested Marc MacSharry had a “conflict of interest”. However following a lengthy row he withdrew that claim.

O’Keeffe defended her absence when speaking to this website last week, saying she had been given “unbelievably short notice” and had family commitments in Sligo that she had notified the Labour whip about last September, saying her daughter was doing her Leaving Cert.

Speaking at Leinster House this morning, Fianna Fáil TD and banking inquiry member Michael McGrath said that any attempt to restore a government majority would represent “power grab”.

He said: “It would raise the question once again as to why the government is so determined to control this banking inquiry lock, stock and barrel, because that is what it would represent.”

Currently, 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 Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, McGrath and independent Stephen Donnelly and, as it stands, senators MacSharry and Barrett.

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

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