Following the recent publication in April of the Nyberg report on the banking crisis, the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan said that the immediate value of the report was to give the Irish Parliament a basis for effective consideration on the banking crisis “so it can make recommendations for the future of the banking sector in Ireland”. However, the Minister insisted that the government will refrain from establishing a parliamentary investigation into the banking crisis pending a referendum to give parliamentary committees greater powers to investigate the actions of individuals, make findings of wrongdoing and apply sanctions where appropriate.
Indeed, Minister Noonan has repeatedly stated that it is a government priority to put to the people a Constitutional amendment to reverse the effects of the Supreme Court decision in the Abbeylara judgment (7), which established that parliamentary committees do not have an inherent power to make findings of fact or expressions of opinion. This seems to envisage a scenario whereby Irish parliamentary committees operate like public US congressional inquiries. The power of US lawmakers to conduct such enquiries is recognised and defined by the US Constitution. If parliamentary committees are given quasi judicial functions, it must be queried if this is an efficient use of parliamentary time and resources and whether politicians are best able to exercise these functions. The public may prefer for politicians to focus on their job of legislating and overseeing government administration.