Over the next week, progressive-economy@TASC will be carrying a series of guest posts by party spokespersons on the banking inquiry. The first post is by Labour's Pat Rabbitte.
Pat Rabbitte: I agree with the Abbeylara Judgement where the Supreme Court held that a Dail Inquiry "capable of leading to adverse findings of fact and conclusions (including a finding of unlawful killing) as to the personal culpability of an individual not a member of the Oireachtas" is not appropriate. Such an issue is a matter for the Courts, not for parliamentarians.
However I do not agree with the Government spin, retailed by commentators most of whom never read the Abbeylara Judgement, that Abbeylara terminated inquiry by parliamentary committee. It does nothing of the kind. It has left a defect in the law when it exposed that the holding of such an Inquiry "is not within the inherent powers of the Houses of the Oireachtas." The Bill I have published on behalf of the Labour Party corrects that deficit, interalia, and once again enables inquiry by parliamentary committee.
The Oireachtas is perceived as being diminished in relevance, while the executive and judicial arms continue to develop. But we believe that the parliamentary model of inquiry can be a focussed, cost-effective, expeditious and fair means of dealing with issues of important public interest, legislative proposals, public accountability of the executive and its agencies and value for money in respect of public monies, whether voted by the Dáil or raised from other sources.
Our conclusion is that an effective parliamentary power of inquiry is essential to the relevance of parliament to public life in a modern-day representative democracy.
If Parliament does not have a role in investigating the causes of the banking crisis contributing to the worst economic crash in our lifetime then one wonders about the relevance of parliament. The DIRT Inquiry recouped 983 million Euro for the exchequer without making any criminal findings. Such findings are a matter for the courts. Parliament's task is not to look for heads on a plate - let the Office of Corporate Enforcement and the Fraud Squad get on with that - but to understand the reasons why normally conservative long-established banks were reckless to the point of ruin.
Precisely because the economic crisis is so shattering, taxpayers, citizens, SMEs and small shareholders need the catharsis of a public inquiry if we are to successfully confront the challenge of rebuilding our economy.
Pat Rabbitte TD is Labour Party Spokesperson on Justice.