Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Banking inquiry: Guest post by Pat Rabbitte TD

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.


Paul Hunt said...

@Deputy Rabbitte,

You deserve the support and gratitude of all Irish people who wish to see the effective functioning of representative parliamentary democracy. You make the very valid point that a failure to establish a parliamentary inquiry into this crisis casts doubt on the relevance of parliament.

This is the key issue. All power and authority flows from the people through their elected public representatives. But I expect you must be prepared to concede that your legislative initiative is unlikely to succeed. It is almost certain that the Government will ensure that more than half of the people's representatives in the Dail will vote against your bill and confirm this further, and possibly fatal, emasculation of the Dail.

Paradoxically, the outcome of your initiative is likely to confirm in the public mind the total irrelevance of the Dail. This is a very dangerous place to be. There is no effective restraint on the powers exercised by this Government which does not enjoy a popular democratic mandate for the policies it is pursuing. The only possible restraint emerges from occasional rumblings of discontent on the Government backbenches - and these are generally manageable.

There is only one solution: this Government must be recalled by the people. And a government elected which will separate the executive and parliament and secure the primacy of parliament.

paul sweeney said...

This is a very important initiative and it is hoped that it will be successful. We need a structured public examination of the bank collapses to see why it happened. I suspect - perhaps know -that it would reveal a shocking level of non-ethical behaviour in corporate Ireland. A good concise report would be helpful in the end. I do not agree with Paul that the Dail is irrelevant. Why do we delight so much in elections? It can be improved and Pat's initiative would help in this. It would be great if he chaired it!

Paul Hunt said...

@Paul Sweeney,

I agree that this is a very important initiative; that is why I believe Deputy Rabitte deserves praise and support. I'm simply suggesting that we need to be realistic. Even if the Government were to allow this bill to be passed into law (extremely unlikely), we can be certain, now that it has pronounced on the nature of the inquiry it intends to establish, that it would ensure the voting down of any attempt to establish an inquiry consistent with the provisions in Deputy Rabbitte's bill.

Why wait to have the total emasculation and irrelevance of the Dail confirmed in this way? And as to elections, they are the nearest thing to a legal blood sport that Irish people can enjoy - now that most others are banned.

I remained convinced that it is time for the Irish people to say to this Government: "We have had enough. Go, and go now." And as the largest and most cohesive force in civil society, the union movement should be facilitating the expression of this message by the Irish people.