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Saturday 23 September 2017

Brian Cowen footing €50k bill for college course in USA

Brian Cowen: enrolled at Stanford University
Brian Cowen: enrolled at Stanford University

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen is footing the bill for a €50,000 executive course in one of America's top colleges himself, his friends said last night.

Mr Cowen is in the middle of a six-week course in Stanford University in San Francisco, California. He is understood to be taking the trip himself, unaccompanied by friends or family.

The course is called the Executive Education Programme, and costs €47,000.

In the past, Stanford has hosted 60 chief executives from the Irish IT and life sciences fields under the Enterprise Ireland leadership for growth programme, subsidised by the Irish taxpayer.

Mr Cowen's brother Barry, who succeeded Mr Cowen as Fianna Fail TD for Laois-Offaly, last night said the impression that Enterprise Ireland funded or part-funded the trip is "completely untrue".

Enterprise Ireland also said it was not subsidising Mr Cowen's programme.

Barry Cowen added: "He's a private person attending in a private capacity, not at the invitation or initiation of anybody else. Ultimately, it's his business what he does and where he does it."

Mr Cowen received more than €200,000 in termination payments when he stepped down as Taoiseach, and is also on an annual pension worth as much as €150,000 a year.

His friend, former junior minister and Laois-Offaly TD John Moloney, said he was under the impression Mr Cowen was funding the trip himself.

"I remember when he said he was going people saying it was an awful lot of money. My view is that he was paying for it himself.

"My own knowledge is he paid for it, but I couldn't say that for definite. When I heard he was doing it, I was glad he was going."

Mr Moloney said Mr Cowen, a qualified solicitor, is still a young man at 52, and has plenty of things left to do, but he did not predict a return to politics for the former Fianna Fail leader, who is still active in local party circles.

"You don't just wind down and go off and go home after being Taoiseach," said Mr Moloney.

The former Laois-Offaly TD is understood to have started the programme on June 23.

The Executive Education Programme includes a range of courses and features speakers such as former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

Courses on offer include 'Strategic Leadership in Dynamic Environments', 'Health and Wellness for the Busy Executive', 'Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation', 'Strategy Beyond Markets', 'Financial Management and the Creation of Value' and 'Public Policy and the Economy'.

The tuition includes accommodation, meals prepared by an award-winning executive chef, course materials and an iPad. The course is designed for elite business executives.

The promotional material for the course says: "The typical participant in the Stanford Executive Programme has set aggressive professional goals for the years ahead and often faces a number of professional challenges.

"Experience the sunshine, the renowned faculty, innovative coursework, beautiful classroom space, global executive participants, and food prepared by an award-winning executive chef to see why participants rave about Stanford GBS Executive Education programmes."

Mr Cowen has previous connections with the college, holding talks with university president John Hennessy during his tenure as Taoiseach in 2010.

During Mr Cowen's period in office, Dr Hennessy was also appointed "international adviser to Irish universities.

Irish Independent

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