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'Akin to Hamlet without the Prince': Senator concerned over Anglo 'exclusion' from banking inquiry

Senators have been debating changes to standing orders that will allow for the establishment of a banking inquiry in the coming months.

Fianna Fáil's Thomas Byrne and Darragh O'Brien in the Seanad this afternoon
Fianna Fáil's Thomas Byrne and Darragh O'Brien in the Seanad this afternoon
Image: Screengrab via Oireachtas TV

A FIANNA FÁIL Senator has raised concerns about the potential exclusion of Anglo Irish Bank from the forthcoming banking inquiry, saying that restricted terms of reference could mean the investigation is “nearly akin to Hamlet without the Prince”.

Darragh O’Brien raised concerns about the lack of information regarding the inquiry and indications that it will only investigate issues up to the the night of the bank guarantee in September 2008 and will not include matters related to Anglo because of the ongoing court case.

“That in itself though is nearly akin to Hamlet without the Prince,” he said, raising issues around contacts current Taoiseach Enda Kenny had with a former Anglo executive during that period when he was an opposition leader.

The Seanad was debating changes to standing orders which will give the Oireachtas the power to establish an inquiry into the collapse of the Irish banking system.

Several senators asked that they be included on any inquiry, raised issues around the difficulty in finding Oireachtas members who will pass the bias test and questioned the lack of time limits on any inquiry.

Government chief whip Paul Kehoe (below) introduced the standing order changes, but Fianna Fáil senator Thomas Byrne questioned why the chief whip of the Dáil was bringing changes before the upper house, saying the Constitution stipulated that each house should set its own business.

“It is giving lie to the idea that this is somehow an independent inquiry by the Oireachtas,” Byrne said, adding that the Constitution and in particular Article 15.10 had been “breached fundamentally”.

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Government senators Maurice Cummins of Fine Gael and Labour’s Ivana Bacik clarified that the Seanad was discussing changes to standing orders as agreed by its own Committee on Procedures and Privileges (CPP) and not the Dáil’s CPP, a separate committee.

Several senators including Fine Gael’s Paul Coghlan, Bacik, independent Seán D Barrett and Reform Alliance’s Paul Bradford called for the involvement of senators in any banking inquiry.

But it was O’Brien who raised concerns about the lack of information on any inquiry and its terms of reference saying that indications so far are that any probe would stop on the night of the guarantee.

He asked whether the government is just setting up a “Salem Witch Trial”.

But Kehoe insisted repeatedly “this is not a political witch-hunt” and said the banking inquiry would have begun sooner had the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum passed in 2011.

He said Fianna Fáil “would have wrote this inquiry on the back of an envelope, a fag box, or something like that” and insisted that “there are lots of people out there who haven’t had any bias or utterances about bankers or anything like that” which would make them suitable for an inquiry committee.

The Minister of State said that although the inquiry will be set up before the local and European elections in May it is unlikely to hear evidence in public session before then.

Read: Banking inquiry will have powers to compel – but no witnesses until after May elections

Read: The Department of Finance has lost letters connected to the bank guarantee

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Hugh O'Connell

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