ODCE head says the 'wheels came off' in a 'catastrophic way' during Sean FitzPatrick trial

Ian Drennan from the Office Of the Director of Corporate Enforcement arriving at Leinster House. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie
By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
Irish Examiner Political Correspondent

Ireland's white collar crime investigator has warned he would still be unable to cope with a financial scandal on the same scale as the 2008 Anglo Irish crisis if it happened tomorrow.

The Director of the Office of Corporate Enforcement repeatedly warned of the situation a decade after the crash and just weeks out from Brexit-hit UK companies transferring hundreds of millions of funds into this country.

Speaking during his first meeting with the Oireachtas committee on business, enterprise and innovation in seven years, Ian Drennan - who is pushing to publish a secret 450-page report outlining the group's gaps despite Government opposition - said bluntly the "wheels came off" in a "catastrophic way" during the collapsed Sean FitzPatrick trial.

And, after revealing some of his colleagues suffered the most serious "human cost" and were left "very damaged by the experience", he said if a case as complex as those linked to the Anglo Irish crisis happened again tomorrow, the ODCE would still not be able to cope.

"Are we equipped for that? No. There are very few organisations that would be,” Mr Drennan told Fianna Fáil TD and committee chair Mary Butler.

Hindsight is 20:20, and anybody if they were in that situation again without knowing what was to come runs the same risks. I don’t use the word lightly.

"Any organisation, if you tried to try to carry that kind of load across a relatively small number of people... things go wrong and unfortunately in this case [the Sean FitzPatrick trial] they went wrong in a pretty catastrophic way and the wheels came off."

Mr Drennan repeated the view during further discussions with Fine Gael senator James Reilly, Labour senator Kevin Humphreys and Sinn Féin's Padraig MacLochlainn - the latter of whom raised concerns of the warnings being raised just weeks out from Brexit.

The head of the ODCE defended his organisation's role in the Anglo Irish trials and said the fact there were convictions was an achievement.

Asked by Fianna Fáil senator Aidan Davitt and Fianna Fáil business spokesperson Billy Kelleher to clarify his remark that some colleagues suffered a severe "human cost", Mr Drennan said:

A lot of people were very hugely damaged. There is a narrative in the public domain at the moment, suffice to say it is not complete. If the full story ever comes out it will put quite a different complexion on it.

Mr Drennan's meeting was delayed for two hours after committee members met in private with legal advisers over whether they could accept a 450-page report from him on ongoing gaps in the ODCE.

While a severely redacted version of the report was published by the Government last year, the full file was not released because of claims it would help defendants.

The Irish Examiner understands the majority of the business, enterprise and innovation committee now wants to receive the report after being assured by Mr Drennan of no unforeseen fallout.

Committee members also privately confirmed that when they receive the ODCE report they will meet former ODCE legal adviser Kevin O'Connell.

Mr O'Connell, who shredded documents relating to the Sean FitzPatrick trial in a "panic" during the 2015 trial, wrote to the committee last week asking to be allowed to explain his actions.

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