That last thing this country needs is a long and drawn out Oireachtas investigation into the banking collapse.
There are too many risks involved. As always, there is a possibility that it could be politicised. We know, only too well, about Fianna Fail’s role in the economic destruction of this country. We do not need it to be highlighted by an Oireachtas committee. What we do need to know is the full story of what happened. That means detail. It means naming names, subject to any legal constraints that might exist. It means the whole awful story put before the Irish people by an independent investigation, preferably chaired by somebody from outside the country.
And it must not be the kind of tribunal of inquiry we have had in the past, going on and on for years and leaving the public with some unanswered questions and a huge legal bill to pay. It is surely within the capacity of this Government to appoint a number of financial and legal experts and ask them to bring back a report similar to the Murphy report on clerical abuse in the Dublin archdiocese which won high praise.
If some people could not be identified for legal reasons, so be it. That day would eventually come. If it meant avoiding prejudicing legal proceedings, always a possibility in a public hearing, all the better. The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, was excessively political in the Dail last week when he referred to a close association between Fianna Fail and Anglo Irish Bank. An independent inquiry might or might not confirm that. An Oireachtas inquiry could become a political brawl, leaving key questions unanswered.
The Irish people are rightly demanding answers. But it would be better to have those answers from a relatively short inquiry, carried out by independent professionals, rather than something that could degenerate into a political bun fight. The sordid and grotesquely self-serving world inhabited by some of those in positions of authority and influence in this country in the past is revealed in the Anglo Irish Bank tapes.
Nothing can explain away the wretched contents of those tapes which have left people reeling with shock and anger. Just as we had reached a stage where we thought we could not be shocked any further, the contents of the tapes were revealed to a people already weary of the ongoing demands of The Economic War.
Were there no controls of any kind imposed on these people? What about the regulatory measures put in place to protect the economic health of a small island? What about the role of our senior politicians and, critically, our senior civil servants? Those in the higher echelons of the CivilService have had the image of being, if anything, overly protective of the State’s finances. Was that, in relatively recent years, nothing more than just another myth perpetrated on the Irish people? Already, too much time has been lost. The culpability of Fianna Fail, and the late and unlamented Progressive Democrats, is known. The people gave their verdict on all of that in the last general election. That culpability should form part of the full story, which we need to know soon.
President Michael D Higgins gave an eloquent and appropriate expression to the reality of this horrible story when he spoke to visitors to Aras an Uachtarain on Sunday. The voices of those on the tapes were not the voices of the Irish people, nor were the behaviours reflected characteristic of our people, he said.
“The people of Ireland, who have borne the brunt of a financial crisis not of their making, are shocked and dismayed that a culture of greed and recklessness emerged in some of our institutions, a culture which was not in keeping with our core values as a nation,” he added.
That sums it up. The betrayal, and it was a betrayal, was perpetrated by some in positions of influence. The vast majority of the Irish people were going about their daily lives unaware that their futures, and that of their children, were being plundered. And so we stand, today, a broken Republic and an international disgrace. Those we entrusted with the welfare of the State let us down. Yet some have wandered off with handsome handouts and huge pensions.
That challenge is formidable. Human casualties abound. This Government, blameless for the contemptible arrogance contained in the tapes, should not push its luck with the Irish people. They demand the full story from an independent source. And they want competent and open government, not point scoring.