Sunday 11 December 2016

Extensive notes from infamous golf meeting to be given to Banking Inquiry

Clodagh Sheehy

Published 10/09/2015 | 02:30

Brian Cowen
Brian Cowen

Extensive notes from the infamous Druids Glen meeting, attended by Brian Cowen and former Anglo Irish Bank boss Sean FitzPatrick, have been offered to the Banking Inquiry.

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Former Central Bank board member Alan Gray, who was also at the meeting, has offered 11 pages of detailed notes from the day.

The golf outing on July 28, 2008 was attended by Mr Cowen, Mr FitzPatrick and former Anglo non-executive director Fintan Drury.

The men met along with Mr Gray and Gary McGann, also a former non-executive director of the bank, at the private home of Mr Drury before the golf outing.

Mr Gray has offered to the inquiry the notes circulated at the meeting in the private house and later at a dinner in the golf club.

Asked by Deputy John Paul Phelan if it had been appropriate to attend such a meeting, Mr Gray said from what he knew now it was a mistake, but "I had been so concerned about the issue of unemployment in the Irish economy" he had never refused an invitation to discuss it.

He said the meeting had been organised by Mr Drury but he had been asked by Mr Cowen beforehand if he was willing to have a session to give his views on the economy.

No-one had asked him to prepare an agenda for the meeting but he had arrived with the notes and these in effect had become the agenda.

Mr Gray said he put quite a lot of effort into his advice for the meeting including consultation with some international colleagues.

Mr Gray said he was not involved in organising the meeting or in deciding who should attend.

Towards the end of the meeting, Mr Cowen had suggested it would be useful to continue the discussion that evening and asked if he could join the group for dinner.

The former Central Bank board member stressed that he did not play and had never played golf.

His recollection was that he had gone to the meeting at about 10am, left before 2pm returning to his office to work on some research, and had then attended the dinner in the golf club in the evening. He also said on the afternoon before the bank guarantee on September 29, 2008 Mr FitzPatrick and David Drumm of Anglo called to his office "to say they were facing a crisis".

He insisted they had not requested any action on his part or asked for any advice. Their motivation for the meeting "is a matter of speculation".

They had arrived unannounced at his office, and he could not tell Chairman Ciaran O'Donnell who had advised them to come to him.

In relation to the bank guarantee, Mr Gray described it as an "unjust decision but was, in my view, a sensible decision given the terrible options that were available".

"However I always understood that a response to the liquidity crisis would only buy time to address the underlying problems and to deal with issues in individual banks and to plan for a restructuring of the sector."

Mr Gray stressed that regulatory systems "did not cause the crisis, but did not prevent the practices which led to the crisis".

He blamed "a too 'hands-off' approach" to the banks, an over-dependence on stamp duty and VAT from property, and too rapid a growth in public expenditure.

Property prices were fuelled by tax incentives which were supported by a range of vested interests, he said.

Irish Independent

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