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Denis O'Brien

The 'farcical' Anglo loans inquiry could be on the verge of collapse

The inquiry into the sale of certain loans by the former Anglo Irish Bank is in trouble.

Updated at 23.10pm 

MICHAEL NOONAN HAS said he doesn’t know how long the Anglo loans/Siteserv inquiry will be delayed after it emerged the judge chairing the investigation does not have the powers to proceed with his work.

The coalition is now likely to introduce emergency legislation after Judge Brian Cregan informed the Taoiseach last Friday that he could not proceed with his probe because of issues surrounding confidentiality and legal privilege.

Speaking in Brussels this afternoon, Noonan said that the government will move as quickly as it can to amend legislation so as that the inquiry can proceed “as expeditiously as possible”.

The commission of investigation, which was established in June, is examining the sale of loans by the IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, where there was a loss of at least €10 million to the taxpayer.

This includes the controversial 2012 sale of Siteserv to businessman Denis O’Brien for €45 million. Siteserv said this morning that it had not yet been contacted by the inquiry – five months after it was set up.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.37.21 p.m. Michael Noonan speaking to reporters in Brussels today. European Council TV European Council TV

The stumbling block arose after Cregan obtained documents related to the loans from IBRC’s liquidator KPMG. However, he was unable to circulate them to relevant parties due to issues around confidentiality and legal privilege.

Noonan said he had thought that the public interest provision in the 2004 Commission of Inquiries Act was “robust enough” for the judge to override these issues, but said the judge had decided otherwise.

I think everybody knew that issues of confidentiality would arise but we thought that the Act of 2004 was robust enough. The key concept of the Act is that things can be done in the public interest.

He said he did not know how much of a delay this issue would cause.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy, whose investigating prompted the inquiry’s establishment, said the situation had descended into farce:

Murphy said it had been suggested to her via sources that the Department of Finance was  one of the bodies not cooperating with the inquiry.

This was denied by the Department this afternoon with a spokesperson insisting that all core documentation had been handed over in unredacted form.

Earlier, the Tánaiste Joan Burton insisted the government was determined to proceed with the inquiry. Speaking to reporters in Dublin this morning, she insisted:

What the government is determined to do and what I’m determined to do is that we will have this inquiry and we will see an answer to all of the various issues.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheal McGrath told RTÉ Radio that it had become a “farcical situation” whereby it was now emerging that specific transactions could not be investigated, despite that being the very reason the commission was established in the first place.

Earlier, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said it appeared the inquiry had “ran aground” and called into question why the Taoiseach was only informed on Friday when he (Doherty) had heard of issues in the middle of last week.

“Enda Kenny is going to come under huge pressure. He can’t expect the Oireachtas to deal with this blindly. He’s going to have to release the judge’s letter,” Doherty told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

Murphy said she had heard of problems last month but that her questions to the Taoiseach in the Dáil had been ruled out of order.

Doherty went on to say there are “serious questions” in relation to the role of the Attorney General Máire Whelan who signed off on the terms of reference for the inquiry which may now need revision.

Burton insisted, when pressed, that she had confidence in Whelan, who has come under scrutiny in recent months in relation to her handling of the investigation into the Garda tapes controversy.

“I think the Attorney General has done remarkable work for this government,” she told reporters in Dublin this mornin

She said the Commissions of Inquiries legislation had been introduced by a former AG in Micheal McDowell in 2004 describing him as a “very eminent judicial figure and politician”.

“We’ve had many inquiries and this is the first time that this particular issue around the public interest and confidentiality in relation to personal matters has arisen in the way that the judge has identified it as a serious issue,” she said.

We now have to address that. This happens all the time, by the way, in inquiries  - that issues perhaps arise out of the nature of inquiries.

Noonan also told reporters that he had confidence in the Attorney General, saying she had gone a good job on a wide range of issues.

First published at 11.50am

Damning criticism: Siteserv inquiry ‘lacks powers’ needed to investigate controversial sales

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