"A catastrophic failure" – Ireland reacts to FitzPatrick trial collapse

Another bungled banking case sees calls for further investigations and resignations...

Another "wonderful day" for Seán FitzPatrick and his family, as the former Anglo Irish Bank chairman is officially acquitted of 27 charges arising from alleged multi-million euro loans from the lender.

Large swathes of the Irish public were altogether less cheerful, in contrast, as it came to light that the taxpayer is facing a bill running into tens of millions of euro for the collapsed case, and commentators and politicians paint it as the latest example of the State's historically hapless approach to such probes. 

Indeed, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was moved to concede that Micheál Martin's Dáil assessment that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement's (ODCE) handling of the case represented a "catastrophic failure".

The Fianna Fáil leader called Judge John Aylmer's ruling on Wednesday a "damning indictment of the ODCE” and argued that "the State’s capacity to investigate white collar crime has been shown to be inept, negligible."

In his ruling, Judge Aylmer said there was a real concern that Fitzpatrick was being denied his constitutional right to a fair trial, noting “fundamental errors” in the ODCE investigation and singling out the taking of witness statements for particular criticism.

"I agree with Deputy Martin," Kenny said.

He added that he expected the current ODCE director Ian Drennan would attend a Dáil committee on what went wrong.

"So much bad practice"

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Fianna Fáil deputy Niall Collins made the case that the collapse was yet "another systemic failure" and called for the ODCE to be "interrogated" on how the bungle happened.

"I think the public are going to be hugely concerned by the news of the trial collapsing," Collins told Newstalk Breakfast

"The small man seems to be able to be prosecuted by the State for every sort of misdemeanour big and small, but when it comes to investigating and prosecuting white collar crime against big business people, the State has shown a blatant inability to bring forward a coherent prosecution.

"So I've called for the ODCE to immediately be brought before the Jobs and Enterprise Committee; we can do so under the section 955 of the Companies Act 2014."

"I also think we need to hear from the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions.

"How did they send this case for trial when the files prepared by Corporate Enforcement were so incomplete and there was so much bad practice in terms of preparing the case, taking witness statements and all the other comments that the judge has made?

"The collapse of this trial points to another systemic failure in the State's ability to prosecute crime and indeed white collar crime," Collins continued.

"We've seen the issues with An Garda Síochána, the issues around Templemore, and how the credibility of An Garda Síochána has been hugely damaged...

"We need to get all the facts out into the public arena in the first instance, we need to assess those, and if change [in ODCE personnel] is necessary, we'll be up there calling for it also."

"Public anger"

Newstalk business editor Vincent Wall argued that Labour Party TD Alan Kelly's calls for Drennan to resign was a "very short term, headline-seeking response."

"But there's no doubt that there's public anger and there absolutely needs to be a comprehensive investigation of what went wrong here," he added.