"Not fit for purpose" - Socialist TD on the laws governing inquiries

Banking Inquiry will issue its report without an executive summary; two members will not sign their names

"Not fit for purpose" - Socialist TD on the laws governing inquiries

File: Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty questions former European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet as part of the banking inquiry. Picture by: Niall Carson / PA Archive/PA Images

Updated 15.38

Joe Higgins has said the current laws on Oireachtas inquiries are not fit for purpose, and should never be used again.

The Socialist TD was commenting after he announced he would not sign off on the final report of the Banking Inquiry, of which he is a member.

In an open letter to the Inquiry Chairman he says it was inevitable that a majority of members would support the status of banks, and he could not sign their report as a result.

But he says the law governing the Inquiry makes it too difficult to even ask a straight question of many witnesses:

"Whereas I am satisfied that the essential questions from my point of view were put, I think the legislation should allow the questions to be put in a more forthright and robust fashion."

Speaking to Newstalk Lunchtime, the Socialist Party veteran said that though he believed the inquiry had been set up years too late, he found the public hearings, in which key decision makers were questioned by committee members, to be valuable.

When asked about the split between him and Pearse Doherty, and the rest of the committee, Higgins said it was inevitable

"Everyone would know that different members of the committee would bring different ideological tools... in dissecting the causes of the crisis."

Offering the profit-taking on land for development, he said that "people who support that system, allowing that type of activity to take place as legal, would have different opinions to how it developed."

Though there was no provision for an official minority report, Higgins plans to publish an analysis and conclusions in relation to evidence presented and the period in review.

Echoing his statement, he claimed legislation passed in the Dáil in 2013 significantly hampered the inquiry, and that a majority of Dáil members would agree that it should be "fundamentally" amended.

"...we couldnt make findings, and the secrecy and confidentiality that's attached to banking and NAMA applies in large scale to the inquiry when you get into details of individuals and institutions," he said.

Missing two signatures

The document was completed last night - though without an executive summary and without the signatures of committee members Joe Higgins and Pearse Doherty.

Earlier, fellow member Labour Senator Susan O'Keeffe said the final draft report from the committee is not bad, considering the obstacles it faced.

Senator O'Keeffe told Newstalk's Breakfast that the refusal of the two to sign off on the draft report is not a fatal blow:

Meanwhile, Renua leader Lucinda Creighton said that the model of politicians investigating politicians does not work.

She said we need to see independent inquiries that can be carried out quickly and lead to prosecutions, and that the current structure for inquiries is not getting results:

There has been no confirmation of reports that the document contains a recommendation that the State launch legal action against the European Central Bank over its stance on burning bondholders.

The report itself will now undergo three days of legal checks before a copy is sent to witnesses - the remaining nine members will hold their breath and hope a legal challenge does not follow.