Govt to ‘whitewash’ banking collapse
Govt to ‘whitewash’ banking collapse

The Dublin government’s decision on holding a semi-secret commission of inquiry into the banking crisis has been condemned by the 26-County opposition as a “whitewash”.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said two preliminary inquiries will be completed by the end of May, with a commission of inquiry under an expert chairman established by June 30th and asked to report by the end of the year.

Mr Lenihan said that a parliamentary committee would then have an opportunity to examine the report and call witnesses if it wished.

Green Party leader John Gormley claimed that he was happy with the shape of the inquiry and said the Dublin parliament could have a role in calling people to account after the commission of inquiry had reported.

However, there was widespread speculation that any evidence of corruption involving the banking system, developers and political leaders will be swept under the carpet.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the proposal was designed to cover up Brian Cowen’s policy and regulatory failures during his four years as minister for finance, in the lead-up to the banking and economic crisis.

“The Government attempted to whitewash over the years of Government policy failures that led our economy over the edge of a cliff 18 months ago. Rather than a transparent and public inquiry into the policy decisions and regulatory failure that led to our banking sector collapsing, we have a secretive, behind-closed-doors process designed to delay and frustrate any public scrutiny,” he said.

Labour Party deputy leader Joan Burton described the proposals as a “sham” and said they represented total political humiliation for the Green Party, which had argued for a more public inquiry.

Sinn Fein Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain TD stated that such is the scale of the scandal that nothing short of full public scrutiny was acceptable.

“This inquiry needs to examine and expose in full how the banking sector played a central role in bringing the Irish economy to its knees. It must call to account Government Ministers, top bankers and the so-called regulators who, instead of doing their duty, maintained a cosy relationship with the banks.

“The Irish public has already poured 7 billion euro in recapitalisation payments to Anglo-Irish, AIB and BoI. Over 50 billion euro will be spent on NAMA. Billions more is required for future recapitalisation - and the public still don’t know exactly how or why this situation was allowed to develop.”

Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Arthur Morgan pointed out that the last such commission set up the government, the Commission of Taxation, operated under very narrow terms of reference and its findings were subsequently ignored.

“Who will sit on this Commission? How much will it cost the taxpayer? I am not satisfied that this work could not be undertaken by members of the Oireachtas at a great deal less cost to the taxpayer and with full public disclosure,” he said.

“As it stands the public element of this process will be virtually non-existent. ... the systemic failures that pre-empted this banking crisis and the fact that many of those involved are still in their positions requires a fully transparent examination of the facts and I do not believe this will be achieved through this process as set out by the government today. This is an attempt to whitewash the truth before the inquiry has even taken place.”

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