From top: Siteserv now Actavo offices in west Dublin; Denis O’Brien
In 2015, a Commission of Investigation into debt write-offs by IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, was set up.
It was tasked with examining 38 transactions which cost the State €10million or more each – or a total debt write-down of €1.88 billion.
This morning, Tom McEnaney, of Times Ireland, reports that the commission is still only examining just one of these transactions – the 2012 sale of Siteserv to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien, Millington.
The commission wants an extension to complete its investigation on the Siteserv deal by June 2020.
It was originally meant to report by the end of 2015, this was extended until April 2016, then until the end of 2017, and then until the end of 2018.
Mr McEnaney also reported that it’s his understanding that the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar intends on consulting opposition parties on the future of the entire commission.
Asked about the significance of this intention, Mr McEnaney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning:
“I think it holds in question the future of a commission that doesn’t seem to be working the way we all expected it to be working into allegations where there’s been never any prima facie case established.
“So, I think, obviously he [Varadkar] hasn’t automatically granted yet another extension and so it must put into question whether the commission will continue to operate, or at least continue to operate in the way it has been thus far.”
In relation to the length of time it appears to be taking the commission to examine one case out of 38, Mr McEnaney said:
“One would expect the others [other 37 deals] to be shorter – even if the others are shorter, it doesn’t bode well for anybody who wants to see the end of the commission in our lifetime.”
Meanwhile, in last weekend’s Sunday Business Post editorial, it told how the commission took an injunction out against the newspaper following reports on the commission.
The editorial stated:
The Sunday Business Post sought to investigate the deal. Last year, we published a 12,500-word article drawing from new documents, emails and other information. The article revealed who knew what about the deal, and promoted a public debate by politicians and policymakers.
It also drew a response from the commission itself, which had previously sought undertakings from the newspaper not to disclose any evidence given to the commission in accordance with legislation. The letter came following a number of articles previously published by this newspaper. The undertaking was provided.
However, the lengthy article was still published on grounds of public interest, and on the basis that we did not believe the publication had breached the undertakings provided because the information did not come from the commission.
The article set in train a series of events that led to an application by the commission for injunctions restraining this newspaper from, among other things, publishing any witness statements given to the commission and any oral evidence given to the commission in private session.
This newspaper consented to the application, primarily on the grounds of costs.
As we wrote at the time, unlike the commission, we could not ask the government for more money when we hit difficulties (it is worth noting that the expected cost of the commission has spiralled from single-digit millions to up to €25 million). It could well lose much more if it moves on from Siteserv.
The injunction remains in place to this day, obtained against one of the few independent media titles that has continually sought to unravel and explain the truth about Siteserv.
Previously: What The Commenter Said