Cowen urged to explain bank talks
Published 10/01/2011 | 15:08
Taoiseach Brian Cowen has come under increasing pressure to explain previously private meetings with disgraced former Anglo-Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick.
Mr Cowen was facing calls to make a full statement on his relations with the banker and his knowledge of the banking crisis in the months before the Government signed off a taxpayer-backed guarantee scheme in September 2008.
The Taoiseach's coalition colleague and Green Party leader John Gormley is to demand explanations about the previously undisclosed meetings with Mr FitzPatrick. Mr Cowen and the bankrupt ex-Anglo boss played golf and had dinner at exclusive Druid's Glen Golf Club two months before the Government hurried through a crippling protection plan to save Anglo and other homegrown Irish banks from collapse.
It has also been revealed that the two men spoke on the phone in March that year, while Mr Cowen was still finance minister, about concerns over Anglo's plummeting share value. The revelations first published in the Sunday Times are drawn from extracts of a new book called The FitzPatrick Tapes.
Mr FitzPatrick said he flagged up issues with insurance tycoon Sean Quinn's complex but failing holding in the rogue lender during the call. The Taoiseach said he vowed to pass the concerns on to the Central Bank governor at the time and did so.
Mr Cowen also insisted the meeting at Druids Glen, Co Wicklow, in July 2008, along with his old friend and former Anglo director Fintan Drury, was a social outing and three men did not discuss the bank's problems. Mr Drury was a former board member at Anglo.
Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael TD, said it was "hard to believe" Mr FitzPatrick's version of events.
"This game of golf with Fintan Drury and Brian Cowen and Sean FitzPatrick must have gone on for three or four hours," Mr Varadkar told RTE Radio. "It would seem strange to me that they did not discuss the condition of the bank at the time."
It is understood Mr Gormley was unaware of the contacts until Sunday and was said to be concerned at the revelations.
Joan Burton, Labour's deputy leader and finance spokeswoman, said it stretched credibility that Anglo's affairs were not discussed during meetings between Mr Cowen and Mr FitzPatrick. Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein's finance spokesman, said the Taoiseach needed to come clean over the full extent of his knowledge in the run-up to the banking guarantee.