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Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland
The Strokes

Noonan: Fianna Fáil pulled a stroke over the banking inquiry "and fair dues to them"

Micheál Martin said the claims are “unfounded” and the government needs to “stop digging”.

Updated at 4.45pm

FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL Noonan has defended the Government’s actions last week in moving to restore its majority on the banking inquiry, saying the surprise move was necessary to reverse the “stroke” performed by Fianna Fáil.

Opposition senators succeeded in adding Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry to the inquiry team two weeks ago, after a number of government senators missed a crucial vote of the Seanad selection committee.

But the Government restored its majority last Thursday by adding two senators — leading to uproar in the upper chamber, as the Taoiseach was compared to Hitler over the move by one senator. 

Speaking to reporters today, Noonan insisted that the Taoiseach had simply sought to re-establish the status quo.

He said the coalition had no intention of the inquiry becoming a “politically directed committee”.

Maintaining the vote last week was “not a huge issue”, Noonan said it was simply the reversal “of what was a stroke pulled by the opposition”.

Fianna Fáil pulled a stroke because Labour senators were absent, and fair dues to them.

Responding to comments by FF leader Michéal Martin earlier today that a cheaper, faster and more effective banking enquiry could be established by having a judge look into the events, Noonan stressed it was important that the hearings be held in public.

He said there was a necessity “for the public, through their representatives, to establish the facts”.

‘Stop digging’

This afternoon, Martin disputed Noonan’s claims.

Far from participating in any sort of stroke, Fianna Fáil have been relentless in our co-operation with other parties and independents. There was no agreement on who should represent the Seanad, which is what necessitated the meeting in the first instance.

“The Government has got itself into a hole and it really needs to stop digging,” he said.

Martin added that the accusations were “unfounded” accusations and served “only to undermine the personal credibility of the ministers involved and further damage the inquiry”.

‘Not driven by government’

Speaking in Lebanon today, Kenny again stressed that the inquiry would not be “driven by government”.

The Taoiseach said that the committee had independence to decide the terms of references, who it will interview and what areas it needs to “explore”.

This is a different kind of committee. It is the first of the committees under the new legislation. It is not driven by government. It does not operate to a mandate or directions or instructions from government.

“For instance, the Fine Gael members who attend the committee have absolute freedom in the context of voting with the committee in terms of what they want to do,” Kenny said.

Donnelly replacement

Meanwhile, the Technical Group meets tomorrow to decide which of its members to nominate to replace Stephen Donnelly, who quit the inquiry at the weekend.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins, who is expected to replace him, indicated he would be open to taking the role, but said he would make a final decision before tomorrow’s meeting.

“Obviously a lot has happened, so I imagine people will want to discuss it again and that makes sense,” Higgins told

“I need to discuss it with a few people in the Socialist Party definitively.”

Higgins said it was essential that the hearings take place in public so that people who were at the centre of decisions being could be questioned “and allow people to draw their own conclusions”.

I think there’s strong merit in that argument.
Regarding his potential membership, he said:
The idea that you have a committee that’s hugely dominated by political establishment — and you’ve one austerity-critical person in there at the moment as I understand it — the question is would ordinary people out there want strongly critical voices in there.

Sinn Féín

Elsewhere, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty has said that he will not follow Donnelly in pulling out of the inquiry.

But he has restated that Sinn Féin wants to remove two senators who were added last week.

“It’s my intention that the inquiry should go ahead. I want to be part of that inquiry, I want to be there in the room asking questions,” Doherty told this morning.

He said that pulling Sinn Féin out of the inquiry would collapse it, adding that this is not in the public interest.

The Donegal South West deputy has written to Fine Gael senator Michael D’Arcy and Labour senator Susan O’Keeffe asking them to take themselves off the committee.

D’Arcy maintained this morning that he is not a full member of the committee and has only been asked to participate in the setting of its terms of reference.

But Doherty wants him and O’Keeffe gone, saying:

In my view that is the only way it will allow the committee to enjoy public confidence again. It will be very difficult to carry out our work under the environment we’re in at this time.

He insisted that it was no reflection on the senators themselves, but said he would be prepared to say it to them face-to-face at the inquiry’s first meeting this Thursday.

“I will make it clear to them on Thursday that it’s nothing personal.”

Doherty also accused Fianna Fáíl of acting “outside the spirit of the establishment” of the committee but said he didn’t blame the other opposition party for doing so.

“The real problem is the reaction of the government. What they did has completely undermined the committee,” he added.

Additional reporting by Daragh Brophy and Órla Ryan. First posted at 10.39am

‘The gun is still on the table’: Donnelly won’t return to banking inquiry

Read: Whips will not be imposed on Fine Gael and Labour members of banking inquiry

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