herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Higgins and Doherty refuse to put names to 'rushed' inquiry report

TD Joe Higgins (Photo: Tom Burke)
TD Joe Higgins (Photo: Tom Burke)

While nine members of the Banking Inquiry attended the publication of the Banking Inquiry report, two were conspicuous by their absence.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins refused to sign the report because he had a "fundamental difference" with the majority of members, while Sinn Fein deputy Pearse Doherty criticised the report as "rushed".

Committee chairman Ciaran Lynch said he would not be drawn on the detail of their reasons for not signing the report, but added that he had the "utmost respect" for both men and their work on the inquiry.

Dublin West TD Mr Higgins produced his own unofficial 146-page "minority report" which states that "extreme profiteering driven by corporate greed drove the property bubble and caused the crash".

He described administrations led by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as "bubble governments" and claimed that Taoiseach Enda Kenny was "a silent non-opposition" during the boom years.

He said that while the Central Bank and financial regulators must take "full measure of responsibility" for failing to rein in the banks, the "political establishment" must not be allowed to make them a "scapegoat".

Mr Higgins criticised the media, saying they "glamorised and cheer-led the bubble".

He argued that the majority of committee members' "ideological framework" meant that "the most fundamental question wasn't posed, let alone answered".

He said the question is why a small group of "bankers, bondholders and developers" was "allowed to wield massive economic power in pursuit of private corporate profit".

Mr Higgins said this inflicted "incalculable economic and social destruction on society" and claimed that the political establishment served the interests of bankers and developers as this happened.

Valuable

Asked if he thought the inquiry was worth the more than €5m cost, he said the vast majority of the cost was for staff, which was "unavoidable", and stressed that public hearings were valuable.

"I think it was very valuable that these central players in the bubble and the crash were required to come in front of a public audience and be subject to questioning. In fact, in my view it was the most valuable part of the inquiry," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Doherty claimed the inquiry was "rushed", and this had led to an "incoherent" report.

"I believe that I've said it before that the Government and the Taoiseach need to take some of that responsibility in the rush to have the report finalised before an election," he said. "What's really missing here is analysis.

"I do not subscribe to the idea of passing the buck, and I don't blame any member of the inquiry or the investigation team.

"The Irish people didn't expect that we would bring in bankers, developers and key politicians who were there at the time of the crisis and were tasked with policy responses after the crisis, ask them the questions and then put their answers into a report and call it the defining narrative.

"That is simply not what is expected by the public, and it's one of the reasons that I could not subscribe to the report."

Mr Lynch told the Herald he would not comment on Mr Higgins' or Mr Doherty's reservations about the report.

"They demonstrated like other committee members an extraordinary level of commitment and dedication to the inquiry and its work," he said.

"While they did not sign up to the final report, they have continued on as committee members and it is not unusual - the committee was always managed through a process of consensus, but that consensus did have to allow also for dissent.

"It is not unprecedented when a parliamentary inquiry has completed its work that there would be dissenting voices to the final report."

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