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Referendum will leave door open for banking inquiry

A inquiry into the financial crisis will be high on the Oireachtas’s agenda if October’s referendum is passed.

Brendan Howlin believes the Irish people should pass the referendum to be held on October 27
Brendan Howlin believes the Irish people should pass the referendum to be held on October 27
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE MINISTER FOR Public Expenditure and Reform has hinted that if October’s referendum is passed, a public inquiry into Ireland’s banking system could be held.

The comments were made in response to a letter sent by DCU Professor Colum Kenny calling for explanations into what the taxpayers’ money is being spent on by supporting Irish banks.

In his reply, Howlin said he “strongly believes” the Irish people should pass the referendum so the Dáil and Seanad will be in a position to carry out “the type of detailed scrutiny that your challenge implies.”

The Minister added, “I believe it is extremely important that questions such as those which you pose are answered in a public forum in a robust, cost efficient and democratic manner.”

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Reform and Expenditure told TheJournal.ie that it could not pre-empt the result of the referendum, the proposed wording of which was revealed by Minister Brendan Howlin yesterday.

Howlin said if the constitutional amendment is approved by the electorate, the Oireachtas will be empowered to hold inquiries into matters of general public importance.

“It will, of course, be open to the Government to make proposals to the Oireachtas regarding inquiries they might undertake…It would be important to ensure that inquiries are used appropriately and that the subject matter of the inquiry relates to the role of the Oireachtas to legislate or call the Government to account,” the department said.

As stated by the Minister yesterday he would envisage that the issue of an inquiry on the financial crisis would be high on the Oireachtas’s agenda.

‘A Communications Challenge’

In his letter, entitled ‘A Communications Challenge’, Professor Kenny asked all 166 TDs to consider an inquiry that will explain where and on what the biggest loans from each Irish bank in recent years were spent.

He wrote:

As graduates and other young people are forced to emigrate in growing numbers, can you as a TD explain where exactly the billions went that taxpayers are now being forced to replace in the Irish banks and that could otherwise have been spent on job creation? Why not? Are you, as a public representative, prepared to break the silence and find out?

Minister Howlin responded:

Thank you for your email. You may be aware that today I published the 30th Amendment of the Constitution Bill, the objective of which is to reverse the consequences of the Abbeylara judgement that has prevented the proper inquiring role of Oireachtas Eireann from functioning in recent years. I strongly believe that should the people pass the referendum this current Dail and Seanad will be in a position to carry out the type of detailed scrutiny that your challenge implies. I believe it is extremely important that questions such as those which you pose are answered in a public forum in a robust, cost efficient and democratic manner.

Read: Government publishes wording of Abbeylara referendum>

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