Draft Commission of Investigation (Certain matters concerning transactions entered into by IBRC) Order 2015: Motion (Resumed)

The following motion was moved by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, on Tuesday, 9 June 2015:
That Dáil Éireann:
— having regard to the specific matters considered by Government to be of significant public concern regarding transactions entered into by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, IBRC;
— noting that it is the opinion of the Government that these matters of significant public concern require, as the best method of addressing the issues involved and in the public interest, examination by the establishment of a commission of investigation; and
— further noting that a draft Order proposed to be made by the Government under the Commission of Investigation Act 2004 (No. 23 of 2004) has been duly laid before Dáil Éireann in respect of the foregoing matters referred to, together with a statement of reasons for establishing a commission under that Act;
approves the draft Commission of Investigation (Certain matters concerning transactions entered into by IBRC) Order 2015, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 9 June 2015.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 3:
To insert the following after "Dáil Éireann on 9 June 2015":
"Calls on the Government to amend the terms of reference for the commission of investigation into IBRC, as follows:
- The commission of inquiry will also examine governance within IBRC.
- The Taoiseach would request an interim report to be provided in October."
- (Deputy Michael McGrath).

I congratulate my colleague, Deputy Catherine Murphy, on her dogged persistence in pursuing this matter. She said it was like pulling hens' teeth. We know from the so-called answers to parliamentary questions she asked on these issues there was definitely at least one cover-up. It was only when Deputy Murphy submitted a freedom of information request that the Department of Finance revealed there were serious tensions between departmental officials and senior members of IBRC. Given the fact that IBRC was charged with recovering as much as it could on behalf of the State and the Irish people, the relations between this nationalised entity and the Department of Finance necessitate a full and proper inquiry. We should never forget that €25 billion in State funds was put into the dead carcasses of the bankrupt banks, Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society. I believe this was unconstitutional, as this House did not vote on spending these State funds. I hope the matter will come before the Supreme Court this year.

Given the scale of this €35 billion, which equated to almost 20% of our national income at the time, we need complete and absolute transparency on IBRC and its dealings after its liquidation. The people have a right to know whether wealthy and powerful individuals and the corporations they control were given very special treatment. We must remember that 10% of the wealthiest people in the country own 54% of the wealth while the bottom 20% own nothing but debt. This is particularly important, given the findings of the Moriarty tribunal on Mr. O'Brien. It found it was almost without doubt that a company controlled by Denis O'Brien, Esat Digifone, won the mobile phone licence competition through the then Fine Gael Minister, Michael Lowry.

The tribunal found that Mr. Lowry unduly influenced the bidding process. These events formed the basis of Denis O'Brien's subsequent fortune, so what happened at that time is linked directly to the tribunal. We know from the Moriarty tribunal that he is well able to use his contacts and influence for commercial advantage.

There has been no criminal follow-up to the outcome of the Moriarty tribunal. In the real world outside this building, families with distressed mortgages are being pursued for every cent up to the point of being made homeless or put into distressed situations leading to suicidal tendencies. There are no favours and no special deals for ordinary people in this country. The dogs in the street know that there is a golden circle which operates at the top of Irish society. I hope this inquiry gets to some of the truth, but on past evidence I am extremely doubtful about that. The Government's U-turn on the need for an independent inquiry is nothing more than the usual political stroke. The previous attempt to bury this issue proved untenable so the issue has now been kicked to touch, and anyone who believes this inquiry will report before 31 December or before a general election is living in Disneyland.

During the winding up of IBRC and its aftermath, other issues emerged around the payment of workers. This took a long time to be resolved, and there was persistent pressure from the unions. Another issue was the selling off of the mortgages of Irish Nationwide. I received a letter today from a couple in Lucan whose mortgage had been sold by IBRC to Shoreline Residential Limited. They are still in the throes of dealing with it and the company is trying to make them buy out their home. They are under a lot of pressure from this company. They say that, just recently, Shoreline told them through Pepper Finance Limited that they might look at restructuring their loan but this is not a solution. They say that another company, to which their loan might be off-loaded, is not an ethical company because when it started operating in southern Ireland it had no licence to operate. It also put interest rates up without notice and uses subterfuge to make its customers stay with them. The couple's response to that is, "No thanks, Shoreline. We do not want a solution from you; we need help." This couple is seeking help from us as elected representatives. They said they had written to the Minister, Deputy Noonan, and to the Taoiseach, but had received no response on how their mortgage was being dealt with. These issues, relating to the aftermath of the selling off of these mortgages to vulture funds which are now capitalising on the situation, should also be looked at as part of the investigation. They do not even know how much their mortgage was sold for and whether what they are paying back is equal to that.

I will support the motion for the investigation, but there should at least be a six-month review relating to Siteserv and the judge should be told that the Government wants that issue sorted out quickly. The other issues should be dealt with as soon as possible afterwards, and in any event before 31 December, although I doubt that will happen.

Somebody said to me during the week that the more this issue drags on the more it resembles a scene from the Mad Hatter's tea party. "We had a problem," was followed by "No, there is not a problem." "We need an inquiry," was followed by "An inquiry would be inappropriate," and then "An inquiry is exactly what we need." "The Siteserv write-down taken by IBRC was €110 million," became "No, it was €119 million." "The minutes for certain IBRC board meetings do not exist," turned into "No, here they are after all."

That is the public perception of what has been happening over the past month. No matter how much it might feel like it, though, it is not in reality a tumble down a rabbit hole, nor is it a child's bedtime story. This is very serious. Large loans extended by a wholly State-owned bank, IBRC, resulted in the loss of millions to taxpayers, including in the case of the controversial Siteserv transaction. It was said in the press that IBRC, the ruins of a bank, was originally propped up so that business could continue as normal. What is "normal", however? Is it normal for bondholders to be repaid every cent? These are gamblers of the highest order who were no doubt gobsmacked at their good fortune. Was it normal that a rake of taxes, charges and levies and cuts in social welfare, education and health were heaped upon ordinary working class citizens to cover these costs? These taxpayers are surely now entitled to know if, in the wake of the hardship they suffered, the maximum return possible was achieved by the sale of Siteserv.

Was it normal for the same legal advisers to act for both the buyer and seller in the sale of Siteserv by IBRC? This is what people are asking. Was it normal that KPMG, which advised on the sale of Siteserv and whose personnel were involved in that company, was also involved in the liquidation of IBRC and was then paid to investigate the sale of the company? What are we at here?

Taxpayers have footed the bill for this and so many other transactions and they now have the right to know exactly how much each property within the remit of NAMA, for example, was bought for and sold on for and to whom it was sold. We do not know that and we have a right to know that. My colleague, Deputy Catherine Murphy, has for many months been requesting an inquiry into IBRC and the sale of Siteserv. It has taken 19 parliamentary questions to get a straight answer from the Minister for Finance. Over the months when she was asking the questions, she told me she was submitting question after question and getting nothing back. Is this normal practice from a Government Department? Deputy Murphy deserves high praise for her determination to get to the bottom of this case, and her diligence appears to have paid off, but serious questions need to be asked regarding the way the information had to be dragged out of the Government over many months, particularly regarding Siteserv. The reluctance to investigate and report quickly to the Dáil when the issue emerged was, no matter how it is dressed up, a delaying tactic. Maybe the idea was to make Deputy Murphy tire and say "I've had enough. I can't go any further with it." She did not give up, of course.

It is crucial that the inquiry has in its remit the question of how the whole IBRC operation interacted with and was overseen by the Department of Finance and the Central Bank in the context of the transactions it is examining. This is especially important in light of the barriers which have been placed in front of Opposition Deputies in the past couple of months as they tried to probe and access these controversial issues. The fact that a Department attempted to fob off an elected representative over controversial issues in itself merits an independent investigation. I would be curious to know whether any Fine Gael Deputy is willing to go on record and state whether the actions by the Department and the Minister have been examined by the party. There is something not right when it takes 19 parliamentary questions and months of investigation by a parliamentarian to bring it to this stage. All this does is to further erode the public's trust in the political system as they have followed the issue over the past weeks and months.

Serious questions also need to be asked about the way reporting by the mainstream media was influenced by money and power. Last week Irish people were relying on the international media to report on what was happening in our own Parliament. This cannot be right and it should never, ever have been the case. I myself was out of the country and it was embarrassing to meet people who were able to tell me what was and was not being said, and that what should be reported was not being reported. It could not be reported by the press, RTE or even a Dáil Deputy outside the Parliament. We became a laughing stock in the media around the world. It would not do any harm for us to read some of the statements and editorials on how the media reported this in Ireland, while Dáil Deputies were prohibited from speaking and threatened with consequences if they spoke outside the Dáil on the issue.

Dáil privilege has been described by the Supreme Court as a cornerstone of Ireland's democracy. Hence, the questioning of it by Denis O'Brien's spokesman does not bode well for democracy in Ireland. People should listen carefully to the NUJ. Whatever one's opinions may be of unions, people should listen to the NUJ when it says that it has long warned that our media imbalance lets the powerful off the hook. In the wake of this controversy, there is an onus on the Government to examine our defamation laws and to assess whether they are fit for purpose. I am not too sure anymore, in light of what has happened.

Previous speakers have correctly pointed out that this inquiry will be a massive task. The former IBRC chief, Mike Aynsley, has suggested that over €1 billion worth of write-downs might fall under its remit. However, it is crucial that all transactions, even those below the €10 million threshold, are examined. We need to have everything examined in this inquiry, no matter how far down we must dig. Everybody should be wary in a democracy when one month ago, there was no problem but where we have now reached a stage where we have been debating this in the Dáil for two solid weeks, the NUJ has given a crucial warning to people about the influence of the media and the media in Ireland, particularly RTE, was unable to report on an issue that is a cornerstone of our democracy, namely, freedom of speech.

Members of the Dáil had to go to The Observer or The Guardian in England or to the Spanish news, which were reporting all this when we could not. It is rather shameful and disappointing. I am not blaming the Minister for that, but I found it sad and disappointing when I spoke to people outside the country. As a Member of the Irish Parliament, I was restricted and people were asking how it was that they could speak about what was happening in Ireland but all the Irish newspapers, RTE and all the television and radio programmes could not? How does that look for us in Europe? How does it look for democracy? After all of this, there must be some discussion on how we can deal with the press and the media moguls who think they control the press. Not only do they think they control the press but they think they control what Members in the Dáil say and how they say it. That is the difficulty in Irish democracy.

At the outset, it is important to emphasise that the nationalised Anglo Irish Bank was deliberately set up in such a way as to keep it at arm's length from the State. As the late Brian Lenihan said at the time: "The bank will be managed on a commercial basis at arm's length from the Government, allowing the full potential of its business to be realised". The Minister for Finance was not required to be informed of details such as the Siteserv deal. That also applied to the Minister of the day, the late Brian Lenihan. As soon as concerns were raised in relation to Siteserv, however, the Minister and the Department took a series of actions on foot of them. The Minister revised the relationship framework with IBRC. As a result, he now has more oversight of IBRC activities, and rightly so. This Government's priority has been to reduce the cost to the taxpayer of the bailout of the banks and restore a functioning banking sector to serve the Irish economy.

IBRC, the wind-down vehicle for the former Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, was liquidated as part of the deal to restructure the onerous promissory notes arrangement. The promissory notes deal in February 2013 was a key step in the stabilisation of the public finances and our clean exit from the bailout later that year. This Government reduced our borrowing requirement by €50 billion over the next decade, including €10 billion in cash savings. The disappearance of the former Anglo Irish Bank and former Irish Nationwide Building Society from our financial, political and social landscape were long overdue. Both institutions became synonymous at home and abroad with the reckless mismanagement of our banking system and wider economy. They became emblems of a culture of cronyism that undermined confidence in both our economy and our political system. They became a stain on our international reputation and a dent to our national pride.

Investigations by Mr. Peter Nyberg into the causes of our banking crisis revealed that both institutions had abandoned traditional checks and balances and risk management procedures in the pursuit of ever bigger short-term profits. Both institutions are also key to understanding the wider crisis because they were both seen as highly profitable institutions to which other Irish banks should aspire. As other banks tried to match the profitability of Anglo Irish Bank in particular, their behaviour gradually became similar. Accordingly, when the crisis broke, large losses were realised not only in Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society, but also in other banks. Such was the prominence of Anglo Irish Bank at the time that a Member of this House who is with us today, Deputy Shane Ross, suggested that the gentleman at the head of that institution should be made Governor of the Central Bank.

On a point of order, I ask the Minister-----

Sorry, chairman of the Bank of Ireland. I beg the Deputy's pardon. I correct that.

It is absolutely untrue.

That is not a point of order.

I ask the Minister to withdraw that.

Did Deputy Ross not suggest in an article that this gentleman be made chairman of the Bank of Ireland?

Can we allow the Minister to continue without interruption?

That is on the record of the Dáil and it has not been corrected before.

First of all the Minister said the Governor of the Central Bank, which is incorrect-----

Yes, I withdraw that.

-----and which he withdrew because he did not know what he was talking about.

Deputy Ross is speaking next. He can reply then.

Deputy Ross can respond.

I ask the Minister to withdraw that.

I have withdrawn the reference to the Governor of the Central Bank, but not the Bank of Ireland.

On a point of order-----

Both Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society became synonymous with the disastrous response to the banking crisis that brought our entire State close to bankruptcy. The damage done by these financial institutions will take many years to rectify. After the catastrophic economic management of the past decade-----

On a point of order, the Minister's last few sentences are unbalanced and incorrect.

That is not an acceptable point of order.

That has already been dealt with.

That comes in the body of the Deputy's reply later.

The balance sheets of the-----

The Minister, without interruption. Will the Deputy resume his seat?

The damage done by these financial institutions will take many years to rectify.

It is an untrue picture.

After the catastrophic economic management of the past decade so epitomised by Anglo Irish Bank, there is a long and hard road to travel in our country's journey back to prosperity and full employment. However, the budgetary strategy this Government is pursuing will ensure that our debt levels continue to fall and we are better positioned to withstand any shocks that may occur in Ireland, in Europe or in the global economy. Already the Government has succeeded in almost halving the interest rate on the European loans provided under the bailout programme; in securing agreement to extend the maturity of the European loans; in replacing the promissory notes with very long-dated Government bonds; and in replacing €18 billion of IMF loans with cheaper market-based funding. We pledged to wind down Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society in our 2011 manifesto. In government, we are gradually winding them down in the form of IBRC and our broader strategy is to stabilise the banking sector.

The value of the State's investment in AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB continues to rise. It is not the State's intention to remain a holder of its banking investments in the long-term. We believe a thriving, competitive banking sector, which is properly regulated - I cannot emphasise the need for proper regulation enough - will produce the best outcomes for consumers and citizens. The Government's exit strategy is about recovering the full cost of the taxpayers' investment in these institutions and using the proceeds to further reduce the debt. The sale of 25% of PTSB further improves this position and we are confident that all the taxpayers' money invested in AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB will be fully recovered.

The scale of the economic crisis we have gone through has been unprecedented in Ireland's history. As the Minister, Deputy Noonan, said, we have essentially lost a decade in terms of economic growth and job creation. Difficult decisions have been taken and huge sacrifices have been made by the Irish people but this has not been in vain. We have made real progress. The recovery has begun, it is getting stronger and we are focused on securing the recovery. Some 100,000 new jobs have been created since we took office. We are on course to return to full employment by 2018, having reduced unemployment from over 15% to below 10% in the past four years. This has been possible because the economy has returned to strong growth as a result of the choices made by this Government and the sacrifices of the Irish people.

I welcome the commission to further underscore the transparent and open manner in which this Government operates. I commend the motion to the House.

I thank the Minister for withdrawing that remark. I notice that the Minister for Finance had to whisper in his ear when he made that mistake. I would point out to him that he is wrong in his second remark as well. The Minister for Finance made exactly the same accusation in this House some years ago, which he has not yet withdrawn. No doubt he will take the opportunity-----

I have the piece of paper.

-----to do so. I am delighted that the Minister will do that.

I have the Deputy's article.

The fact of the matter is that I did not suggest that he be made chairman of the Bank of Ireland either. I put down a question about whether he was in the running, along with many other people. If the Minister wants to misinterpret that, as he does, it is no wonder he gets into so much trouble politically in this House and that he is now a Minister demoted rather than one promoted. If he does not check his facts and comes into the House and says things like that, it is no wonder, as he cannot be relied on by the Government.

Having cleared that up, I would like to make one or two points. I welcome the fact that there is a unanimous pursuit of the truth in this House and I do not doubt for one moment that this is the objective of the Minister for Finance and other Ministers in this House. I do not doubt that this is also the objective of Deputy Catherine Murphy or the leaders of the Opposition, but I find that the solution that has been agreed upon, of setting up another commission of inquiry or tribunal, or whatever one would like to call it, is unsatisfactory. This is a tried and tested way to divert problems out into the distance. The history of tribunals of inquiry and commissions of inquiry is a sad one in this House. I will reflect on one or two of the things that have happened previously. The Ministers will be aware of the fact that an Ansbacher inquiry was set up many years ago in order to unearth, remedy and penalise those who had committed offences which were revealed by political stories. I cannot remember the exact number but I believe more than 100 people were outed by the Ansbacher inquiry. They settled with the Revenue Commissioners. How many of those people have been prosecuted to this day? The answer is none - not a single one. The response of the Revenue Commissioners to that when asked about it was that it is very difficult to collect evidence against people of that sort. Many of those people settled, yet they cannot be prosecuted. It is an extraordinary solution to a problem that has never been resolved and that remains unresolved.

Another inquiry into DIRT tax in the banks was set up by this House some years ago. The result of that was that many small people who had indeed indulged in tax evasion were outed and had to make large settlements. How many bankers have been faulted for what happened in those cases? How many of the powerful have been faulted? The answer is none - not a single one. There are either still in their jobs or retired, but the result of that inquiry was the outing a large number of people who were encouraged by the powerful to break the law, and they were prosecuted or penalised while the bankers were not.

Let us consider other inquiries. We had the Smithwick tribunal, which went on forever, we had the Moriarty tribunal, which was debated in this House, we had the Mahon tribunal and we had the beef tribunal. The result of the latter was fairly ineffective, but what it did result in was a statement in this House by a former Attorney General that it was the longest job application in history. That is why I worry particularly about this inquiry: because the judge in that case who was sitting on the tribunal ended up as Chief Justice. Therefore, I ask the Minister this: is there some absolutely sacred rule that a person who has been in the Judiciary should automatically be appointed as chairman of such an inquiry, and therefore we should accept him or her as someone of totally unimpeachable motivation or expertise? There should be no automatic acceptance of that fact. It is true that under the 2004 Act a person who sits as a single judge in charge of a tribunal and should be a judge or retired judge. One of the problems here is that we have insiders judging insiders. I am not suggesting that whoever is appointed eventually is flawed. It would be helpful if we knew in advance who it was, but everybody in this House knows that those who are going to sit in judgment in such tribunals are political appointees. They are appointed by Governments and by individuals on a very partisan basis which is utterly flawed and discredited. I know the Government intends, or so it says, to introduce a new judicial Bill with a new way of appointing the Judiciary, but that has been delayed and delayed. My guess is that it will not sort out the problem of appointing judges and it will not sort out the problem that political appointees will be in charge of this inquiry. That in itself raises the question as to who should be in charge and how they should operate. It is very serious because it indicates the kind of web that exists whereby people can choose political appointees to come up with a solution which, by its very nature, is questionable and should be challenged.

I also believe that while there is a genuine desire to find out the truth, this is a political vehicle. What has the row been about over the past few days? It has been about terms of reference and timing. One can put forward all sorts of reasons as to why the timing should be different. One can say we should have the report by Christmas and an interim report by October. The reason there are timing differences and timing disagreements is nothing to do with the merits of a report, the timing of a report or the facts that will come out. They are to do with one thing: the date of the election. That is all they are to do with. The Government wants it to go to 31 December or beyond because it is out of its control and they do not want something like this coming out before the election if it is out of its control. The Opposition wants an interim report earlier because it wants this particular controversy to be kept alive and fester in case there is an election in November. That is the truth of what is going on. Kicking this off to a commission of investigation is on one hand a means of deferring it until a certain day, although not because one gets the truth better on one day than on another, and on the other hand a means of keeping it in the public arena and embarrassing the Government.

Both sides see this as a way of taking political advantage. It is what all of us politicians do, but let us tell the truth about it.

One need only consider what is happening down the corridor today, namely, the banking inquiry. It is a neutered and hopeless inquiry that can, in effect, make no findings. It has been called an impartial inquiry to find the truth, but it is really a political vehicle to crucify Fianna Fáil once again. The game is to bring in Mr. Brian Cowen, Mr. Charlie McCreevy and Mr. Bertie Ahern, but only last thing before the election. No one should be naive enough to believe that inquiries of this sort are set up in sole pursuit of the truth. They are established for political advantage or to escape a political down side.

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute on this matter. I welcome an investigation. I have not been in the Dáil for long, but I have seen something. As Deputy Ross stated, the banking inquiry is taking place down the corridor. The more one learns about this place and that no one will be crucified or made to pay a price for doing wrong, the more one grows frustrated. I have always understood that, when one does wrong, one pays the price. One does the time if one does the crime. Sadly, a certain group of elite people in Ireland are allowed to do whatever they want and walk away without consequence whereas every youngster and mother and father in Ireland is at home working hard and paying the price for what happened in this country over the past ten, 15 or 20 years. No one has been held accountable and the same types of people are investigating.

We are debating appointing a judge to investigate this matter, but we need to look outside Ireland. This is a small country. As with the scientists whom I have dealt with down the years, we need to look further afield. We have accountancy firms that seem to get all the jobs. The same people are looking at the same problems. As in any walk of life, when someone gets to know people, he or she will not kick them as hard as an outsider who does not know them might, an outsider who tries to do something in the interests of what is right for the country.

IBRC and NAMA involved the single largest movement of private debt onto the public's shoulders. The people of Ireland will be paying for what has happened for years. Although I am iffy on whether there will be any, I hope that there will be answers about what interest rates people were paying and whether there was cronyism. The more I look at the cronyism in this country, the sicker I get. Some people are being looked after better than others.

I have with me a letter that I received this morning. According to it, the Minister and the Taoiseach have been sent copies. A couple with a house in Lucan is being kicked around by the same bank that supposedly gave others favourable treatment. The couple's loan has been sold. The list of directors at the various companies that buy secondary mortgages off the likes of IBRC makes for interesting and sickening reading. The same people's names crop up time after time. That couple has repeatedly tried to repay their ordinary mortgage. They wanted to do a deal and the loan has been sold on at a reduced rate, but the company will not listen because it wants to get its pound of flesh.

We cannot continue in an Ireland like this. Transparency must come to the fore and we must ensure that, at long last, a nod and a wink will not let someone get away with whatever he or she wants. There must be a new type of politics. Deputy Ross was right. For the Opposition, this is great and will last for a long time whereas the Government will try to kick it out, but that is not what this should be about. Who gets elected or not should not matter in this instance. Only the people of Ireland should matter, the people in every corner of the country who have seen 250,000 of their children emigrate because of others using authority in ways they should not and abusing the system.

Yesterday, Deputy Pearse Doherty raised issues that may be relevant. I understand from the Minister that they can be covered by the inquiry, but let us be clear in the terms of reference and include them. Let there be no doubt. Let us ensure that we do not follow the alphabet only to E or F, but right to the end so that we do not consider just half of the story. We must read the full book and, for once in this country's life, do something right.

In a few weeks' time, ex-taoisigh will attend the banking inquiry. There will be a big hoo-ha, but what will we have at the end? Will anyone announce that someone did something wrong and that he or she will pay the price? If one does not pay a television licence immediately, one will be thrown into Mountjoy Prison. If one gets away with hundreds of millions of euro and, in many cases, places that burden on the people of Ireland, one gets a clap on the back. This is not the Ireland in which I or many others want to live. They want to see an Ireland where there is transparency, people do things right and matters are handled in a new way.

I urge the Minister to include everything in the terms of reference that needs to be included. Let us have no doubt about them. This is not a question of opposition and government. This is about doing something right. This is about listening. This is about setting an agenda for a new Ireland and a new future that shows people that the Dáil is not just a talking shop, but that we care and want to do something right. I urge the Government to do this from now on.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to contribute on this debate. I commend and thank my colleague, Deputy Catherine Murphy, for highlighting this issue. She has displayed great courage, determination and commitment. Once again, this shows the need for independent voices in the Dáil and Irish society in general, people who are not in anyone's pocket and will stand up for the rights of the Irish people, particularly those in weaker sections of society who are voiceless and do not have the power or clout of the wealthy, powerful and elite. Those of us who believe in public service for the right reasons must always be vigilant and stand up for our people's rights.

Trust and respect are the key issues in this debate. Where I come from, one never stands up to demand trust and respect. One earns them. This is a major problem in politics. As we debate the motion, see the play-acting and remember the original refusal to answer questions, I think of the 102-year-old woman on the trolley, the 14-year-old carers or the cut to the respite care grant that the Government claimed it could not help making when €4 million will be spent on this commission of inquiry. Three weeks ago in the House, I asked the Ministers for Health and Education and Skills to provide a fund of €1,000 to complete an educational service in Trinity College Dublin for adults with Down's syndrome. They turned me down, yet we can spend this €4 million and not even bat an eyelid.

That is another issue we should address. It is something the Ministers should address. I feel angry about the original proposals because questions that were put were never answered. It is very important that we say this in the debate.

I am concerned about some of the other issues we came across in recent weeks, such as freedom of the press, democracy, accountability and transparency in this country. We cannot allow the influence of one individual to be a major threat to free speech and democratic principles. We must stand by Article 15 of the Constitution. We have seen other movers and shakers moving in to buy TV stations. People who work in the media are looking over their shoulders. People are asking whether journalists are afraid. In recent years, we had the sad case of the disgraceful treatment of Sam Smyth, who is one of our top journalists. The Government should act by saying that no one person can have a major influence over the Irish media. Journalists have to be free within the law. I emphasise the word "within".

Like some of my colleagues, I recently received a letter from a couple who are being pushed and messed around in this regard. I would like to read a section of the letter:

We are a couple from Lucan, that got into trouble with our mortgage in late 2010 with IRISH NATIONWIDE BUILDING SOCIETY. We went to INBS four times during 2010 [and] 2011 and requested that they restructure the loan and they told us the Government would be bringing in legislation to help all stressed mortgage holders and people would be looked after and there was absolutely nothing to worry about. The Government's solution was IBRC, and we embraced the process and gave them all our financial data thinking they would at the Government behest minimumly restructure our mortgage. The IBRC sent us a 20 page letter demanding that we sell our family home within six months or they would sell it over our heads. A Mr. Weller from IBRC told us at his office in 6 Grand Parade D2, that they had the courts and judges on their side and there was nothing we could do.

I ask the Deputy to refrain from using names.

I am just quoting from the letter. I will stick to the guidelines. The letter continues:

We refused to sell our home. We paid off most of our debt within a year and secured an agreement from IBRC to pay 1100 euros per month which we have paid every month since the agreement in 2013. Recently we have paid this amount into an account and not to Shoreline residential due to them not handling our situation. At this point IBRC viewed us as an asset and sold us off to Shoreline Residential Ltd. for [in the region of] 40000 euros. Our first communication with Shoreline was to request to buy back the mortgage and they agreed and said make an offer. We did make an offer which they refused and said we needed to make another offer which we did and they refused it again. At this point we felt we were doing all the running and requested that Shoreline make a counter offer so we could see where they were at and they totally refused and ignored 5/6 letters to them. We had let them into our home to value it and gave them our finance data and cooperated with all of their requests so we felt totally isolated.

That is just one case. I am raising it during today's debate because people out there are saying that the wealthy in Irish society are getting loans and debts written off, whereas people who are actually making an effort to pay back some money are being screwed and hammered into the ground. This really gets up my nose when we are talking about the terms of reference. In relation to the terms of reference, the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance have decided that each transaction involving losses of over €10 million should be included. I would decrease that to €1 million. I also believe the timeline should be extended. There are serious governance issues in this regard. My colleague, Deputy Catherine Murphy, has raised the issue of the timescale, which is vital to the investigation. She said that it should not conclude on prom night, but should expand to cover transactions up to the present day because there are issues that straddle both time periods, including the interest rate issue. She asked for an assurance that the report will be concluded in a timely manner and that the election will not scupper it. These issues have been raised by Independent Deputies in relation to this matter.

When we are discussing these issues of banking and finance, we should not forget the broader issue, which is that many of those who support the wealthy elite in our country seem to have friends in the print media who enjoy kicking a poor country like Greece around. I strongly feel that Greece is being bullied by the EU.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

It was not Syriza that destroyed Greece. That country had a series of centre-right Governments, all of which were supported by the EU at the time.

The bullies of the EU.

Syriza is the consequence, rather than the cause, of the Greek problems. Greece has recently seen deposit flights of approximately €400 million per day. I would say in this case that it is time for Ireland to speak up for the Greek people. We need to have a fairer Ireland and a fairer EU as well.

We should not be afraid of the EU bullies.

I will go back to the issue of the statements. The Government has decided that the establishment of a commission of investigation under section 3 of the Commission of Investigations Act 2004 is necessary to investigate certain matters of significant public concern regarding certain decisions, transactions and activities entered into by IBRC between 21 January 2009 and 7 February 2013. It is also looking at the details of the guarantee of the Irish banking system on 30 September 2008. A new management team and board were put in place in 2009 with the objective of managing the bank in a manner that minimised the ultimate cost to the Irish taxpayer. I am saying it is very important that we raise this as well.

I will support this commission of inquiry, but I have concerns about some of the issues that have been raised by my colleagues. I sometimes wonder why we do not have commissions of inquiry to investigate the 138,000 children in this country who are living in poverty in 2015, the increase in the level of consistent poverty from 6.8% in 2008 to 11.7% or the 37,000 children who will be living in poverty in 2020, according to the Ombudsman for Children, Mr. Niall Muldoon. Some 1,054 children are homeless at the moment. I am saying that commissions of inquiry have to be focussed on these issues as well. I add to that the need to support people with disabilities. People with intellectual and physical disabilities are crying out for services at a time when €4 million of taxpayers' money is being spent on a commission of inquiry.

Overall, I commend Deputy Catherine Murphy for raising these issues and showing once again that strong Independent voices are needed in Dáil Éireann to stand up and protect the rights of the citizens of this country.

I welcome the decision to commission a full inquiry investigation into IBRC transactions, even if it is belated at this stage after certain matters were comprehensively brought to the attention of the public stage by Deputy Catherine Murphy on numerous occasions. The terms of reference have certainly been expanded and significantly extended by comparison with the original KPMG inquiry that was sanctioned. In their current format, the terms of reference cover all aspects of the various dealings. It is imperative that this report will be finalised before the end of the year. We hope that will happen because the general public, like everyone in here who was elected by the public, is waiting in anticipation. The other thing that should be mentioned is that at this stage, the general public is fairly punch-drunk following a whole plethora of investigations and tribunals and a whole spate of State investigations in recent years.

Almost all the inquiries featured golden circles, cronyism and greed, which has been rampant as people manipulated taxpayers' money. These people were self-centred. The general public is battered and bewildered. It is disgusted by the revelations alleged against the banks, big businesses and people carrying out their duties in a manner that would normally qualify as unorthodox and unethical. There is plenty of material to verify this. These people manipulated to gain the maximum out of the system. For a long time before the Minister’s appointment this bloody system was short on regulation. There was very lax, poor or no regulation. Regulators were brushed aside or seemed to go into hiding. The shortage of enforcement compared with international standards makes us the laughing stock in the outside world.

It is obvious that we have not learned from, or paid any heed to, the previous major banking scandals and their catastrophic effect on Irish society. It is mind-boggling for the general public to accept the revelations here, the huge scale of the write-downs, which were approved by the IBRC, the involvement of individuals and their agent companies. In many cases, there is evidence to show a very strong conflict of interests, double standards and manipulation of finances by these people out of greed and self-interest.

The IBRC has sanctioned over 40 write-downs for these big businesses and for a select group of individuals who received a combined write-off of debts of up to €1.25 million. That figure may emanate from the Department of Finance, or from the Minister. It is all the harder for the general public to accept, digest and tolerate this when at the other end of the scale the ordinary householders, who we meet every day in our clinics and when we carry out our duties as public representatives, are in a sorry state. They are devastated and, in some cases, families are on the point of breaking up. Some people have serious health problems while others have lost their jobs. I hope the Minister will make proper provision for the banks to ease this burden because people deserve a break from the layers of austerity and tough measures they are enduring.

Up to 10,000 houses are in danger of being repossessed or of suffering severe additional penalties because the IBRC has sold them off to vulture capital funds. They have no mortgage protection because the mortgages are outside the control of the Central Bank. This is symptomatic of the rough treatment inflicted on the majority of the public. The elite is getting preferential treatment at the expense of those ordinary people.

Major tensions existed between the IBRC and the Department of Finance, which went far beyond the original issue of Siteserv. I will not blame the Minister because there is a legacy matter involved. The engagement between the two organisations went so low that at one stage the Minister said following the Siteserv sale there was a serious problem and he was not confident of reporting the IBRC’s affairs to the Dáil. This signifies a lack of information and maybe a lack of stewardship by the Minister’s officials and advisers. That is a matter to be clarified. It is not good enough that matters were not properly reported to the Minister and that there was not proper communication. That is very undesirable.

One the controversies concerning the IBRC and the Department is the way it conducted several other deals such as pay deals and appointments at the bank and how it handled major borrowers. It appears that matters came to a head at a meeting in July, which the Minister and his senior officials, the chairman of the bank, Alan Dukes, and the chief executive officer, Mike Aynsley, attended. The major issues of concern to the Department included the sale of a high profile residential block in New York. One IBRC staff member raised questions about the appointment of the US firm, Blackstone, to sell the big assets without following proper procedures. There appears to be a web of questionable activities and conflicts of interest.

I do not know if the Minister does any political reading but obviously in the Dáil, there is not a high level of debate. Outside this Chamber there is a great deal of political writing. I recently visited America where Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has been writing about a corporate coup d’état, a global corporate takeover of society whereby what he calls the internal controls that used to exist have declined and the corporate takeover is complete. By internal controls he means a questioning media and a questioning government that would, in some way, constrain the global oligarchy.

The issue the House has been debating for many hours yesterday and today is the epitome of this.

Hedges writes that "a tiny global oligarchy has amassed obscene wealth". The Minister will be aware that the wealth of 80 individuals equates to the wealth of 3.5 billion people, or one half of the population of the planet. Hedges also speaks of corrupt governments "abandon[ing] the common good to serve corporate profit" and notes that "no mechanisms to institute genuine reform or halt the corporate assault are left". He adds: "The citizen has become irrelevant. He or she can participate in heavily choreographed elections, but the demands of corporations and banks are paramount." He must have had Ireland in mind when he wrote these words, given their relevance to the topic under discussion.

Hedges also states that governments the world over blindly serve their masters and "acquiesce to the looting of state treasuries to bail out corrupt financial houses and banks while ignoring chronic unemployment and underemployment, along with stagnant or declining wages, crippling debt peonage, a collapsing infrastructure, and the millions left destitute and often homeless". While he is referring to the global position, his description accurately characterises the position in this country.

Yesterday, we heard about an insiders' investigation into very dodgy dealings. We are discussing the winding down of a bank for which ordinary working and unemployed people have paid a heavy price. KPMG is investigating KPMG. Many of the members of an old boys' network who have multiple business links, including shares in each other's companies, and were involved in the original deal will be involved in investigating this deal.

Lest we forget, the individual we are discussing was the subject of the Moriarty tribunal. Does the Government accept the findings of that tribunal? Is the Minister in a position to answer that question because the Government certainly sends out mixed signals on the issue? The tribunal found that "no conclusion can be arrived at, other than that repeated and clandestine courses of actions were adopted by persons intimately associated with Mr. O'Brien, to confer payments or other benefits upon Mr. Lowry, on behalf of Mr. O'Brien." The tribunal's report also detailed the various payments that were made.

Following the general election, the Taoiseach stated that he would "sever the links between politics and business once and for all and, in so doing, achieve three fundamental goals: stop the further pollution of our society; re-establish a moral code and order regarding public life; and, through that, restore public confidence in politics and government." Public confidence is at an all-time low following the events of recent weeks.

If the Government believes the findings of the Moriarty tribunal, which cost taxpayers €200 million, why was Denis O'Brien a guest of the Government at the Global Irish Economic Forum which, ironically, took place at Dublin Castle, the location of the hearings of the Moriarty tribunal? Why has Mr. O'Brien had such a strong relationship with the Fine Gael Party? The Taoiseach has seen fit to have many public meetings and engagements with Mr. O'Brien, including at the New York Stock Exchange.

Last week, Mr. O'Brien was given an opportunity to publish an article in The Irish Times despite having ready access to many other media organs. Reading the piece, people will have been nauseated by the arrogance on display. Clearly, a person living in a retreat in Malta will not be familiar with the pain that has been inflicted on ordinary people in this country as a result of seven years of austerity. Mr. O'Brien wrote: "Maybe I am old-fashioned but I operate on the basis that a client’s relationship with its bank is at all times confidential." It is incredible that he believes his dealings with a bank which was bailed out using billions of euro belonging to taxpayers and unemployed people should be secret. Mr. O'Brien also wrote: "Dáil privilege is an important component of our democracy; however, there is a parallel duty of care on the TDs and Senators to use this privilege with integrity under the guidance of the Ceann Comhairle." However, no parallel duty exists to respect the findings of a tribunal that cost taxpayers €200 million and that investigated the award to Mr. O'Brien of a mobile telephone licence that amounted to a licence to print money. Lo and behold, Mr. O'Brien was subsequently given another licence to print money when he was awarded the contract to install water meters. That depends, however, on whether the Government proceeds with its plan to implement water charges, which is highly unlikely.

Denis O'Brien has boasted that his actions of late were an act of patriotism. I did not realise that when the purchase of Irish assets by foreign companies was at its height, Mr. O'Brien decided to buy a number of companies "to keep some of them Irish, to preserve and grow employment and to seek opportunities for these businesses to develop in Ireland and overseas." What is the Minister's view on this statement? The companies in question included Siteserv, Topaz and the Beacon Hospital, which, taken together, cost taxpayers approximately €350 million through write-downs on their debts. Taxpayers will not take the view that Mr. O'Brien did us all a great service.

Mr. O'Brien also wrote that, over dinner one night - probably in Malta - a friend told him not to bother buying anything in Ireland as he would "get dog's abuse." These people live on another planet, yet they have such an ordinate power. I understand, for example, that Mr. O'Brien has pursued 28 cases of libel.

Considering how much money the Fine Gael Party has received from Denis O'Brien, he can certainly be described as a patriot. In an 18-month period between March 1995 and June 1996, when the Minister was either at the helm of the Fine Gael Party or held a high-profile position in it, Mr. O'Brien supported Irish democracy by attending 14 Fine Gael fund-raising events and donating £20,000 to the party, which was then in government. In 1996, he donated a further £50,000 to Fine Gael on behalf of three of his companies. The late Jim Mitchell also worked as his political consultant. Given this baggage and history, I would have expected the Government to seek to remain a million miles removed from Denis O'Brien. It seems that is not the case.

The lucrative water meter contract that Mr. O'Brien was awarded as a result of Siteserv setting up GMC Sierra confirms to those who are sick and tired of what they are hearing about this issue that they should boycott water charges. This would be a powerful way to fight back, as these people should not be further enriched. The word on the street, in case the Minister is not aware of it, is that not only has Mr. O'Brien won the contract to install water meters, but he will probably also come to own Irish Water.

Events have shown that the system is at fault. Senior journalists stated on a radio programme today that it is probable that the commission of inquiry will not find anything illegal. Does it not say something about the system that all of this will be found to have been perfectly legal? It shows what a rotten system we have and that capitalism is at fault and must be eradicated.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. It is unfortunate that it is being held at the end of a protracted period of public discourse on an issue that could have been addressed at the outset. While I will not use the word "advice", as I do not wish to insult the Minister, the Government should have taken on board some of the views of Deputies on this side of the House. The nature of the information emanating from the debacle in IBRC around the sale of Siteserv suggested on most people's radar that even if there was not prima facie evidence of legislation being breached, there were certainly matters that would have given rise to the suggestion of some level of impropriety.

Had the Minister for Finance acceded to the request from this side of the House, we could have moved on yesterday and today to deal with issues of significant importance. From the very start, it was clear that there were issues around the way in which the Siteserv deal had gone through. For me, the warning bells rang loudly when a bust company and its directors walked away from the ashes of that event with €5 million. The matter was further compounded when the person who negotiated the sale on behalf of the State went on the national airwaves and used the phraseology, "The votes had to be bought." It may be that buying votes in the corporate world means something different from buying votes in the political world, but it should not. It should suggest from the very start that there was something wrong - if not a breach of the law, a breach of the basic moral code. When, in essence, it was taxpayers' money rather than any shareholders' money that was at stake, alarm bells should have been ringing loudly in the ears of Ministers too.

It disappoints me that the Minister for Finance allowed a veil to be pulled over it because he felt that IBRC as constituted was working supposedly in the best interests of the taxpayer. That was notwithstanding the fact that €5 million from such a deal ended up in the back pockets of shareholders and notwithstanding the fact that there was significant activity on the share register in the weeks preceding the finalisation of the deal. Obviously, there were people with inside information or who had access to information who believed there would ultimately be some payout. It baffles most people, particularly those who have experienced the loss of their family homes or other assets, or know of people to whom this has happened, as a result of the fall. Many people have taken a huge hit, whether in terms of private pensions or property or the family home. They are not given a dividend when the bailiff shows up and they are not given a sweetener to go when they are asked to hand back the keys. It does not happen. Their authority is not bought. That is why it is most troubling that the Government was not able to see it.

I have no issue with capitalism to the extent that others might. I have nothing against Denis O'Brien as a businessman seeking to make money, but someone needs to protect the taxpayer. Denis O'Brien cannot be seen - nor can anyone else - as a white knight who is rocking into town, buying up distressed assets and returning value to the taxpayer. That is not what they are doing. The Minister knows well that they are cherry-picking the salvageable assets that have long-term potential. I wish them the best of luck if they have the wherewithal to do it, but when we see the complex transactions that appear to be funded by some State assets, we can see that it is wrong. The State needs to put in place the appropriate protections. How the Minister ever accepted that KPMG could carry out an investigation that would pass the most basic smell test is beyond me. I do not care what Chinese wall the Minister was prepared to build that would challenge any structure in place in the good times; it would not have withstood public concern or basic standards in any jurisdiction where the rule of law reigns paramount. That is why this matter has been so protracted. It goes back to the question that Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the other day, which was whether someone in government is afraid of Denis O'Brien. Is there somebody who is genuinely afraid of him, such that the Government cannot stand and act in the best interests of the taxpayer while letting him do what every other businessman does - that is, look after his own interests? If it is in his best interest, he will purchase assets, but someone needs to look out to ensure that in an environment where distressed assets are on sale, interests are protected. It seems to me that if a sweetener had to be put in place to get the Siteserv deal over the line, that should have been the first flag or alarm bell prompting people to say, "Hang on a second, there is a problem here."

One then moves on to what has happened since. David Murphy in RTE, a noted and reputable journalist, put a solid story together and gave Denis O'Brien the opportunity to comment. Like many others, he was served with a legal writ. That worked its way through the courts and Deputy Catherine Murphy came to the House with further information which she put on the record. Mr. O'Brien decided to usurp the authority of the court in one instance and use a judgment in one particular case to silence the House. He silenced the national broadcaster, which was prudent in its approach, and many other mainstream media in the full knowledge that he was bluffing. That was proved when he failed to submit a defence in the case that was taken by RTE and The Irish Times the following week. Throughout that period, the Taoiseach failed on numerous occasions to assert the primacy and authority of the Constitution in the protection of utterances in the House and their reporting thereafter. When one puts the two things together - the way in which the Siteserv deal was allowed to languish without a proper investigation, and the Taoiseach's failure to protect the Constitution and assert its supremacy in protecting the House - one must ask the legitimate question of why the Government is beholden to Denis O'Brien. Why not put the Government's side of the story?

We have a belated acceptance now by the Government that a commission of investigation is warranted, but the caveat the was dropped in was the phrase "there is no evidence to suggest...". There is ample evidence to suggest that there was considerable wrongdoing, if not within the narrow definition of some legislation then certainly morally and certainly outside what one would have thought was the best interest of the State, which the public elected the Minister for Finance and the Government to protect.

Nevertheless, neither the Minister nor the Taoiseach has had anything to say other than to defend what went before. It does not necessarily fall at the Minister's feet, but his own Department has been behind the scenes on this. That is surprising in view of much of the documentation that came from John Moran, the former Secretary General, wherein it seemed he had a very adversarial discourse with IBRC. It then transpires that there were packs associated with various board meetings that disappeared or are still floating in an in-tray, an out-tray or a parked tray. I do not know where they are, but maybe the Minister can help us with them. The average person could not be regarded as cynical for feeling that there was an unholy mess and a lack of desire on the part of the Government to address it appropriately.

The big issue for me in relation to Denis O'Brien is his significant control of the media. What he does not own, he has threatened. That is wrong. He is a businessman and I have no issue with him making vast sums of money. The best of luck to him. However, when he seeks to use his influence in the media and his very strong approach to litigation to silence the House, it steps over the line. It steps over the threshold of acceptability, or should from a Government perspective also. The Labour Party has talked a great deal over the last number of years about ensuring a diverse media and ensuring diversity in its ownership, but it has sat on its hands through two successive Ministers and failed to address the issues. I am not surprised that Fine Gael, as others have said about its relationship with Denis O'Brien, did not want to rattle that cage in advance of an election, but the Labour Party has been abysmal in the protection of free speech. It is appalling.

The Government's acceptance of the necessity of establishing a commission of inquiry was too late. The fact that it has decided not to allow for an interim report in advance of the next election speaks volumes as to why it ducked and dived for the past number of months on this issue.

I was in the House last night when the Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar, made his contribution. He began by saying that he would set the context for this debate. He proceeded to turn on Fianna Fáil. I have no problem with that because, in some ways, Fianna Fáil deserves what it has got and probably a lot more. However, the context is a little different because it is the recent years of this Government's term and decisions taken by it or its agents with public moneys, and IBRC was public money. It is in the interests of the Irish taxpayer and of ordinary people who have suffered the consequences of recent years to know what decisions are being taken on their behalf with their money. If it is decided to write-down €1 million, €2 million or €3 million, they are entitled to know for what reason and whether it was in their interests. If it is decided to make sweetheart deals or deals of any type with their moneys, then they are entitled to know. What we now have is a discussion around the motion which we did not need to have. This could have been teased out, as was attempted by my party leader, Deputy Adams, by our finance spokesperson, Deputy Pearse Doherty, by Deputy Catherine Murphy and quite a number of others, over the past number of months. What they asked is exactly what the Minister promised in an election not so long ago - at this stage, it is over four years ago - that a new era had dawned, that this new Government would be transparent, that we would be entitled to find out what was happening with public moneys and that the era of the cute hoorism of the previous Government and everything that went with it was over. Backbenchers and opposition Deputies, in particular, were forced to extract information not by means of parliamentary questions, because most of those received obscure or irrelevant answers, but through freedom of information requests. Thankfully, once again this Parliament is being served by whistleblowers who have exposed deals that are not in the public interest and about which the Department of Finance had major concerns in terms of the probity of the deals.

To explain the context again, this is in an era when people are languishing on trolleys or in seats, as in the case of Beaumont Hospital which I attended recently with mother. Instead of trolleys, it has 20 seats because 20 trolleys will not fit in the accident and emergency department. This is in an era when we have the highest number of homeless people and nearly half a million people have emigrated in the past ten years. That is the context. They are the people whose money the Minister has been playing with, or has allowed others to play with without any recourse to this House. The Minister was brought kicking and screaming to this motion which does not go far enough. This did not end in February 2013; it is still happening today. If we decide to have an inquiry, then all transactions must be included. Those decisions are affecting the public purse and the future because any tax foregone or any write-down means that money is not available for other services. The decisions to write-down, whether €100 million, €200 million or €1 billion, all mean that money is not available for public service. The Minister might stand over that, which is his right and his decision, but those of us on this side of the House have a right to question whether that was the right decision. The Minister has tried to obstruct us in that regard. The other big promise the Minister made at the time the Government was elected was that the old boys' network, the cute hoorism, was gone-----

Sorry, Deputy, that is the second time you have used that term. I ask you not to use it.

I did not direct it at a specific person.

It is not parliamentary language.

I can spell it out if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle wishes.

People understand exactly what I am talking about, that there is a clique in society, a group of people who are not bound by the usual norms of this Parliament and who have looked after each other. What is even more galling is that they have been facilitated, despite the conflict of interest, by this Government on a number of occasions. Some have a lot more understanding of and specific details about the transactions and have highlighted some of them - my party leader, Deputy Adams, included - but they have not received the answers. The terms of reference which the Minister has produced may allow the judge to look beyond quite specific aspects but we are calling in our amendment for quite specific details to be part of the remit rather than an afterthought that might be, will be or shall be or whatever that judge decides. We are asking the Minister to include them in the remit and to outline a timetable for the reports because the case of Siteserv, which triggered this, is the most immediate case. We all know some of the details and some of the work may have already begun. While this is ongoing, we need to examine some of the other issues raised by Deputies in this House. It is only right and proper that this happens. It is also not only right and proper but it will recognise the public interest aspect because it is the public's money.

Michael Geoghegan suggested one of the Blackstone officials should be on the NAMA advisory board. Whether that is right or wrong, there is a conflict of interest but nobody seemed to step in until that question was raised in this House. These are major questions. Did the Minister not see that there would be a conflict of interest in the appointment of some people to advisory boards who were conflicted in some aspects?

The buck stops with the Minister because he is the Minister for Finance but was he aware of all the write-downs and all of the sweetheart deals that went on? The idea of KPMG acting as auditors, advisers and facilitators raises major questions about the Minister and the appointment by this Government of advisers. I remember very early on in this Government's term and in the run-up to the election, there was extensive criticism about the use of advisers by the Fianna Fáil Government but this Government seems to have extended the practice because there seems to be more advisers for every Minister than there ever was under a Fianna Fáil Government and I am not protecting or congratulating Fianna Fáil. The toxic relationship between the group that seemed to be looking after itself rather than looking after the public interest has never been fully investigated.

I wish the judge well when and if he takes on such an onerous task. I hope he will reach speedy conclusions and that the officials and civil servants will move heaven and earth to facilitate a quick report. It is pointless unless it is brought up to today. I ask the Minister again to use the little time he has before we put the motion to a vote and to look at the logic of the Sinn Féin proposals. He should accept that it is the same logic that forced him to at least put some motion before the House. We should go right up to today in terms of transactions and write-downs.

Before I make closing remarks, I would be grateful if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle could advise me as to how the amendments will be taken and at what point I will move the technical amendment.

My understanding is that I will be putting amendment No. 3, then amendments Nos. 2 and 1, and then the Government amendment, No. 4.

I would like to thank all of the participants for their contributions during the course of this debate. The debate reflects the constructive consultation that we engaged in, and I am confident that the majority of the concerns around the terms of reference of the commission of investigation are already addressed in the revised terms of reference.

Throughout the evening yesterday, and again today, there has been a lot of discussion about details of specific customers, specific transactions and decisions taken by IBRC. The public concerns about these matters are why we are initiating this commission of investigation. I would like to encourage Deputies who have information that may be a cause for public concern to bring this to the attention of the judge and I commend Deputy Doherty on committing to do exactly that.

I have listened carefully to Deputies' concerns and would like to address some of those relating to the terms of reference in these closing remarks. The issue of an interim report or an earlier deadline was raised by Deputies from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin as well several other Deputies. However, I maintain the view that the 31 December 2015 deadline is appropriate, bearing in mind the different nature of the review and its extended scope.

Turning to Sinn Féin and Deputy Creighton's proposal to extend the scope of the transaction by reducing the monetary threshold to €1 million, let me restate that under the terms of reference, the commission will have the power to investigate any transaction of any value that gives rise or is likely to give rise to potential public concerns, regardless of the level of loss.

The movement between the particular and the general in terms of governance within the bank and the role of the Department and Minister for Finance has been raised by Deputy Martin and a number of other Deputies. While it is essential that the focus of the investigations remain on individual transactions, it is from a review of the individual transactions that trends and potential concerns may be identified. Section 4 of the terms of reference provides the judge the power to go further with the investigation in the public interest "on any other matters of concern arising from its investigation", and report and make recommendations on these matters.

Deputy McGrath and other Deputies' concerns focus on the role of the Department and the political oversight by both my predecessor, the late Brian Lenihan, and me as the respective Ministers for Finance. I want to assure the Deputy and indeed other Deputies who raised similar concerns last evening and today, that under paragraph 2(f) of the terms of reference the judge will be in a position to exercise judgement as to whether the Department took appropriate steps with the information provided.

Regarding Deputy Martin's concerns about the wealth management unit, I can assure him that the specific inclusion of the wealth management unit in the terms of reference as a result of our consultation on Monday enables investigation into both general and specific concerns around transactions and decisions made by the unit.

Similarly, the terms of reference have explicitly included the performance of agents of IBRC on the matters under investigation, in order to enable the investigation of concerns raised regarding the role played by IBRC's advisers. Agents are included; the consultants mentioned are agents who may be inquired into by the judge, as may their role.

The concerns raised by Deputy Doherty are covered in the current terms of reference; the commission shall investigate all transactions, activities and management decisions during the relevant period which are identified by it as giving rise or likely to give rise to potential public concern.

The issues of managerial decisions and verbal agreements between IBRC and borrowers were raised by both Deputy Doherty and Deputy Murphy during the debate last night. The terms of reference cover all transactions, activities and managerial decisions during the relevant period that are identified by the commission as giving rise or likely to give rise to potential public concerns would like to clarify that the relevant period was broadened following consultation with Deputies Murphy, McDonald and Martin to include any situation where a contractual obligation, either written or oral, was entered into prior to the liquidation of IBRC but was not executed until after the liquidation. It is not my intention nor the intention of the Government to cut off a potential line of investigation into transactions, activities and managerial decisions of IBRC, that have given rise or are likely to give rise to potential public concerns.

Following consultation this morning with the Attorney General and a review by the Attorney General's office of the statement made by Deputy Doherty last night and the document provided by the Deputy to the Taoiseach's office, I can confirm that the circumstances raised by Deputy Doherty relating to a verbal agreement before the liquidation of the bank is within the scope of the terms of reference.

Questions also have been raised regarding the examination of unusual share trading activity in respect of any transaction under investigation. The judge is explicitly empowered to investigate such activity with the commission of investigation's broad powers - activity which cannot be adequately investigated based on a review of files held by IBRC.

I also welcome Deputy Murphy's support for this commission of investigation and want to address her concerns regarding the motivations of the promissory note transaction. I can assure Deputy Murphy that my statements in introducing the promissory note transaction were and remain accurate. The promissory note transaction was designed to significantly improve the financial position of the State with regard to the heavy burden of the promissory notes on the State's finances. As Minister Humphreys pointed out earlier last evening, the promissory note transaction was an important milestone which has significantly improved the financial position of the State and benefited taxpayers.

I do not agree with Deputy Creighton's contention that the investigation is toothless as the commission has significant powers, including the right to compel witnesses to attend, to inspect premises and to prevent the destruction of evidence. Criminal sanctions can apply to persons who commit offences pursuant to the Act. These offences include failing to comply with directions without reasonable excuse; failure to preserve documentation; the obstruction of authorised officers of the commission; and the making of false statements to the commission.

The broadening of the scope of the review to cover NAMA was raised by Deputies Wallace, O'Sullivan and others. It is worth recalling that NAMA is audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General and NAMA's clear and well-stated policy is that properties and loans are openly marketed. Members of the House, particularly members of the public accounts committee, will know that the Comptroller and Auditor General maintains five or six staff permanently in NAMA, who are effectively embedded there. They review all transactions and report to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Deputy Keaveney made a serious allegation that my comments to the effect that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing will prejudice the commission of inquiry.

I reject that assertion and maintain that while various allegations have been made, nothing has been proven at this stage and it will be up to the commission of investigation to investigate these matters. The other suggested amendments made by different speakers are largely included in the terms following the productive consultation I had with Deputies Micheál Martin, Catherine Murphy and Pearse Doherty.

At this time, I would like to confirm that retired High Court judge, Mr. Justice Daniel O'Keefe, has agreed to serve as chairperson of the commission of investigation. Mr. Justice O'Keefe has a strong commercial background as a chartered accountant and he is also a former chairman of the Irish Takeover Panel. I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Justice O'Keefe for agreeing to serve in this important role. I would like to repeat what I said in my opening remarks and encourage Deputies who have received information that may be a cause for public concern to bring these concerns to the attention of the judge.

I would again like to thank all of the Deputies who contributed to this debate. I am confident that the majority of the concerns around the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation have been addressed in the revised terms of reference and I look forward to the results of the investigation being made available.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2:

To insert the following after “under that Act”:

“noting the deficiencies of the draft Order calls on the Government to amend No. 5 of the draft Order to read:

- ‘the Commission shall, subject to section 6(6) of the Act, submit to the Taoiseach its final report in relation to its investigation no later than 31 October 2015.’; and

further notes the deficiencies in the schedule to the draft Commission of Investigation (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) Order 2015 and suggests the Government adopts an amended schedule that should read:

‘SCHEDULE

Terms of Reference for Commission of Investigation Concerning Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited

The Commission is directed to investigate and to make a report to the Taoiseach in accordance with the provisions of section 32 of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 (No. 23 of 2004) on the following matters:

1. The Commission shall investigate all transactions, activities and management decisions, other than those relating solely to the acquisition of assets by the National Asset Management Agency, which occurred between 21 January 2009 (being the date of the nationalisation of IBRC) 12 March 2015 (being the date when the Progress Update Report prepared by KPMG and published by IBRC was released) (the “Relevant Period”); and which either:

(a) resulted in a capital loss to IBRC of at least €1,000,000 during the Relevant Period, whether in consequence of a single transaction or of a series of transactions relating to the same borrower or entities controlled by the same borrower (“Relevant Write-Offs”); or

(b) are specifically identified by the Commission as giving rise or likely to give rise to potential public concern, in respect of the ultimate returns to the taxpayer; and

(c) investigate the claims of verbal agreements in respect of the repayment, extension or roll-over of loans.

2. The purposes for which each such decision, transaction and activity referred to in 1 above are to be investigated are the following (and accordingly the Commission’s terms of reference extend to investigating):

(a) the processes, procedures and controls which were operated by IBRC in relation to the Relevant Write-Offs to ascertain whether the appropriate internal IBRC governance procedures and controls were adhered to in respect of the transactions under review and whether the said procedures and controls were fit for purpose,

(b) whether there is prima facie evidence of material deficiencies in the performance of their functions by those acting on behalf of IBRC, including the IBRC board, directors, management, the staff of the wealth management unit and agents, in respect of any transactions, activities and management decisions identified in 1. above,

(c) whether it can be concluded from the information available within the IBRC and relevant evidence and witness testimony as appropriate that the transactions were not commercially sound in respect of the manner in which they were conducted, the decisions made and the outcomes achieved having regard to the purposes of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Act 2013 set out in section 3 thereof,

(d) whether the interest rates or any extension to interest rates or any periods for re-payments were given by IBRC on preferential terms that were unduly favourable to any borrower, where those interest rates resulted in a differential of more than €4 million in interest due over the standard applicable interest rates for loans of that nature or where the amendments give rise to or are likely to give rise to potential public concerns,

(e) whether, in respect of any transaction under investigation, any unusual share trading occurred which would give rise to an inference that inside information was improperly provided to or used by any persons, and in the event that such an inference does arise whether any such information was actually improperly provided or used,

(f) in relation to each transaction under investigation, whether the Minister for Finance or his Department took appropriate action to safeguard the public interest by enforcing proper governance and accountability oversight in respect of the transactions concerned, and whether he, or officials on his behalf, including the role of public interest directors,

(g) the role of the external consultants, including, but not limited to Blackstone Group and KPMG,

(h) the role of the wealth management unit of IBRC,

(i) the beneficial owners of Siteserv shareholders.

3. The report to be made by the Commission in relation to the foregoing investigations shall:

(a) shall set out the scope and findings of the investigations in fulfilment of the purposes set out in 2. above;

(b) respect obligations of confidentiality and to respect commercial sensitivity where those are not incompatible with the public interest; and

(c) set out such recommendations as the Commission sees fit.

4. The Commission shall report on any other matters of concern arising from its investigation of the above matters and make any further recommendations as the Commission sees fit.

5. The Commission shall exercise discretion in relation to the scope and intensity of the investigation as it considers necessary and appropriate, having regard to the general objectives of the investigation.

6. In these terms of reference:

(a) “IBRC” means Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited;

(b) where a contractual obligation was agreed during the Relevant Period but not executed until after the Relevant Period then the contract and any resulting loss shall be regarded as having been made during the Relevant Period;

(c) references to IBRC shall be construed as including references to Anglo Irish Bank or Irish Nationwide Building Society and any subsidiaries of IBRC, Anglo Irish Bank or Irish Nationwide Building Society; and

(d) for the avoidance of doubt, references to transactions, activities and management decisions shall be construed as including references to amendments made to the terms and conditions of loans.’.”

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 32; Níl, 103.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Browne, John.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Michael Colreavy; Níl, Deputies Joe Carey and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared carried.

I move amendment No. 1:

To insert the following after “Dáil Éireann on 9th June, 2015 ”

“but calls on the Government that the following amendments be made to S.I. No. of 2015 Commission of Investigation (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) Order 2015:

— the Commission of Investigation shall submit to An Taoiseach an interim report in relation to its investigation no later than 14th September, 2015 on the status and likely conclusion date of its work;

— Dáil Éireann shall no later than 15th September, 2015 be recalled for a debate on the interim report of the Commission of Investigation;

— the Minister for Finance resources and supports the Commission of Investigation in a manner that will ensure that it will issue a final report no later than 30th October, 2015”;

and after “SCHEDULE 2(f)”, new paragraph (g) be added:

— “In relation to each transaction under investigation, what protocols and controls the Minister for Finance and his Department had in place in respect of the transaction concerned, and whether sanction was given for the transaction to occur.”; and by amending SCHEDULE 1(a) by deleting “€10,000,000” and inserting “€1,000,000”

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:

To delete, after the words “approves the draft”, the words “Commission of Investigation (Certain matters concerning transactions entered into by IBRC) Order, 2015” and to substitute the words "Commission of Investigation (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) Order 2015” in their place.

This is a technical amendment, which was required because the title of the order was amended, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, after the motion was originally sent to this House. The title of the final version of the draft order which was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas this afternoon is: "Commission of Investigation (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) Order 2015”. The motion should, therefore, refer to the approval of that draft order rather than the previous working title.

Amendment put and declared carried.
4 o'clock
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 119; Níl, 20.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Browne, John.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • Wallace, Mick.
  • Walsh, Brian.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Joe Carey and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Michael Colreavy.
Question declared carried.