Thursday, January 28, 2016

Another culprit

The report of the legislative inquiry into Ireland's banking and fiscal crisis was finally published yesterday. Although the report doesn't have any real bombshells or directions, it's still an achievement as a consensus assessment by an often dysfunctional political system of what went wrong. Anyway. despite a rich cast of villains, there's one trail not pursued by the report despite its shadow being in several places. Specifically (page 13) --

The Constitution allows significant decision-making powers by Cabinet to make far-reaching decisions without any prior engagement with the Oireachtas (parliament). Members of the Oireachtas, including the Opposition are constrained, with the added issue of limited resources, in their ability to influence the decision-making process.

Later in the report, it's mentioned that the mid-2000s Central Bank was reluctant to use its apparent enforcement powers against banks, because of fears of a constitutional challenge (page 147). As a meta-challenge, the report itself was constrained in its approach and access to information by constitutional issues.

Yet though Ireland has amended its 1937 constitution in many ways despite the big hurdle to doing so -- the need for a referendum -- nothing in the report's recommendations points to the constitution itself, or at least the interpretative industry that has grown around it, as something that needs amending. That's a big blind spot.

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