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Taoiseach compared to Hitler as government regains majority on banking inquiry

The coalition has restored its majority on the inquiry by adding two more senators – causing uproar in Leinster House.

Ned O'Sullivan in the Seanad this morning
Ned O'Sullivan in the Seanad this morning
Image: Oireachtas TV

Updated 12.30pm 

THERE WERE ANGRY scenes in the Seanad this morning as the Government was accused of trying to rig the banking inquiry in its favour.

The row centred over coalition plans to add two more senators to the panel – Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy and Labour’s Susan O’Keeffe – giving it a majority.

Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane called the motion being put to the house an “absolute disgrace” and said the Taoiseach should come in and address the chamber.

“Government senators should be ashamed of themselves,” Cullinane said.

He was heckled by Government members as he accused them of “not wanting” to get to the truth, and of being more interested “in scoring points off Fianna Fáil”.

The inquiry

The banking inquiry had been made up of nine members – five opposition and four government – but in seeking to regain a majority the coalition has added two more members this morning.

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

There have been several rows in the Dáil and Seanad over the issue in recent days culminating in this morning’s vote during the Seanad Order of Business.

The motion to add to the committee was passed by six votes and increases the membership of the inquiry team to 11 – six government and five opposition members.

Skulduggery

Responding for the government in the upper house this morning, Labour Senator Aideen Hayden said it was “the ultimate in irony” to hear “Fianna Fáil talking about skulduggery and Sinn Féin talking about democracy”.

“The other thing I would say is never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

“Let me be absolutely clear about what we’re appointing people to here. We’re not actually appointing people to a banking inquiry. We’re appointing them to a committee to set terms of reference for a banking inquiry.

“This may be too legally complex for some of the eminent minds at the other side of the house, but that is the fact of the matter.”

 ’This may be too legally complex’… [Oireachtas.ie] 

‘Total disrepute’

Independent (and former Fine Gael) senator Paul Bradford, a member of the selection committee, said the Government was trying to re-write the result of last week’s meeting at which the inquiry membership was agreed.

“It will be written that on Thursday June 12th the moral authority of the current Government completely disappeared and Seanad Éireann entered into a place of total disrepute,” Bradford said.

What is happening this morning is deeply disturbing.

Senator Ned O’Sullivan of Fianna Fáil said it was “a very dangerous day” for democracy and that the Taoiseach had “dumped down on the house again”.

He said Enda Kenny was asking them to approve something “that Hitler himself, with the Enabling Act would have been ashamed of”

Quite clearly the Government have no interest in a real, productive banking inquiry at all.

Ned O’Sullivan [Oireachtas.ie]

‘Utter balls of it’

O’Sullivan appealed for independent senators not to back the motion, saying that if it went through “it would be the worst day since the Blueshirts”.

There were also angry words from Senator James Heffernan, who resigned the party whip in 2012.

He said the Government motion was “absolutely reprehensible” and claimed the coalition had been seeking an inquiry akin to a “Nuremburg-style trial”.

“What’s the point in having any democratic institution if you’re going to be treated in this fashion,” Heffernan said.

“What you’re going to have is a show-trial that no-one, no-one, is going to abide by or uphold anything out of.

You’ve made a complete and utter balls of it.

Reaction

Outside Leinster House, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson and banking inquiry member Michael McGrath said the committee is now controlled “in a very political way”.

“I think ultimately the outcome of this is that the inquiry itself is damaged with its credibility severely undermined,” he said.

In the Dáil, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore hit out at the opposition, accusing them of a “parliamentary stroke” by adding two opposition senators to inquiry when there was “an understanding” that it would be one government and one opposition.

“A bit of slick parliamentary footwork was performed and we ended up with two opposition members proposed to be nominated,” he said.

He said that Seanad membership of the inquiry should be made up of both government and opposition, adding: “That’s what balance is about”.

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell 

Read: Attempts to kick Fianna Fáil senator off banking inquiry fall flat

Video: Angry scenes as Micheál Martin repeatedly told to sit down before Dáil suspended

Read: With all this politics what hope does the banking inquiry have of finding out anything?

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