The revelations in the Irish Independent this week of recordings between senior Anglo Irish Bank executives has angered, sickened and shocked people across the country. The conversations recorded illustrate a banking culture that was reckless, oblivious to the damage it was causing people, devoid of any sense of responsibility to anyone other than interests of self-preservation, and dismissive of authority. The bank was populated by people who hold the Governor of the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator in contempt. The culture lacked any moral compass. People are furious about this.
Without doubt, the collapse of the financial and banking system was probably the worst crisis to hit the country since the Second World War. The impact of the collapse has been enormous on the people. Therefore, a comprehensive, independent inquiry into the collapse of the financial and banking system is needed. Such an inquiry would deal with the reasons behind the collapse and also the decisions taken in response to the crisis by bankers, the Governor of the Central Bank, regulators and the Government.
A parliamentary inquiry along the lines proposed in the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013 has been suggested as the correct and appropriate response to the crisis. I ask the Taoiseach to reflect on that suggestion and on whether such an inquiry would be strong enough or independent enough to meet the gravity and scale of the inquiry required. A parliamentary inquiry cannot hold non-public officeholders to account, nor can it make findings of fact adverse to the good name of any person who is not a Member of this House or who cannot be held accountable to this House. The people on these tapes cannot be held to account by a Dáil committee, an Oireachtas hearing or parliamentary inquiry. That is a fundamental drawback and flaw in what is being proposed.
The Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005 is before the House. This legislation was designed to reform the existing Tribunals of Inquiry Acts in order to make tribunals less costly and lengthy and more efficient. I put it to the Taoiseach that such a tribunal of inquiry, chaired by a retired international judge, if necessary, or a judge of good repute, fully broadcast to the public, with the full powers of a tribunal of inquiry along the lines of the Leveson inquiry which borrowed from the Irish Law Reform Commission's report which led to the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005, would represent a better response in terms of having accountability. It would have the capacity to make adverse findings against individuals and satisfy the public requirement for the full truth to come out. I do not believe a parliamentary inquiry at this stage, given the revelations, will actually meet what is required.