Inquiring, Recording and Reporting': Can the Banking Inquiry Deliver Practical Reforms of Oireachtas Oversight of Government?

AuthorDr. Fiona Donson
PositionLecturer in Law, School of Law University College Cork
Pages1-6
[2015] COLR
1
‘INQUIRING, RECORDING AND REPORTING’: CAN THE BANKING INQUIRY
DELIVER PRACTICAL REFORMS OF OIREACHTAS OVERSIGHT OF
GOVERNMENT?
Dr Fiona Donson
Dear Editor,
In the aftermath of the banking crisis the question of how we develop effective oversight
systems for our administrative state stands as an essential, overarching, and yet largely
unresolved question. While the issue is posed as a single question, in fact it is a series of
questions which require critical examination of the many diverse parts of our public sector
and reflect the multiple methods of delivering administrative justice whether through the
operation of judicial review in the High Court or complaints to the Ombudsman. However, I
wish to focus in this letter on a central and undervalued accountability mechanism in the Irish
state, that of the Oireachtas.
Article 28.4.1° of the Constitution clearly acknowledges the role of the Oireachtas in stating
that the “Government shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann”. This reflects the generally
accepted ideal that administrative decision-making at central level should be subject to
Parliamentary oversight. However, in practice the Oireachtas has been inadequate in this
regard. That weakness flows in part from a failure within the Constitution to support this
fundamental accountability role with clear provisions setting out the machinery by which is
can be translated into practice.
Further problems flow from the internal culture of the Oireachtas, not least the dominance of
party politics and the related control of the whip system. Party loyalty is not peculiar to our

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