The Week in Politics
Sean FitzPatrick

Harris admits government can't express confidence in State's corporate watchdog

Sinn Fein said the government’s handling of white-collar crime was like a Monty Python sketch.

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has admitted that neither he nor the government can express confidence in the State’s corporate watchdog.

A new anti-corruption agency could be considered by the Dáil, he said, and the government should have backed an anti-corruption bill by the Social Democrats.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week In Politics, the minister was asked about the government’s role in the collapse of the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chair Sean FitzPatrick.

The  court case collapsed last week after it emerged that the State’s corporate watchdog, the Office for the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), contaminated evidence by coaching key witnesses and shredding evidence.

Harris acknowledged the role of the state in the collapsed trial, but said that as far as he knew, the ODCE had told the government that they had adequate resources.

The question is how does the ODCE interact with the courts, and with the Director of Public Prosecutions. I cannot, and the government cannot, express confidence in this office.

He admitted that his government should have backed the Social Democrats’ anti-corruption bill, but that that alone would not have stopped the collapsing of the Sean FitzPatrick trial.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said in the Dáil that the handling of the investigation into Sean FitzPatrick was like ‘a Monty Python sketch’.

Róisín Shortall, joint-leader of the Social Democrats called for the establishment of a new wide-ranging law enforcement agency to tackle white collar crime.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell-O’Connor has ordered the ODCE to issue a report into their failings, and said that ‘nothing is off the table’ in relation to the repercussions they could face.

RTÉ’s This Week programme reports today that the ODCE had notified the garda commissioner that they needed three gardaí to aid their investigation, but that none were available.

“There are 13,000 gardaí – the notion that you couldn’t find three gardaí to give to the ODCE is incredible,” Labour leader Brendan Howlin told the programme.

He said that there are serious doubts now about whether the ODCE is fit for purpose.

Day Eleven: Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney gear up for final hustings debate

Read: Report ordered into what went wrong in the Sean FitzPatrick investigation

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