Cowen facing Dail grilling amid FF anger at 'Golfgate'
Published 12/01/2011 | 05:00
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen is facing a backlash from his own backbenchers after the "electorally damaging" revelations of his golf outing with former Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick.
It is understood that Mr Cowen met privately with some senior ministers yesterday on foot of so-called 'Golfgate'.
But last night both supporters and opponents of Mr Cowen expressed anger about the controversy.
A number of Fianna Fail TDs claimed the issue may be raised at the parliamentary party meeting tomorrow morning.
Mr Cowen got a boost yesterday when Green Party leader John Gormley made it clear that his party remained committed to staying in Government until the Finance Bill is passed and a General Election is called.
But one supporter of the Taoiseach said the recent revelations were "not very helpful on top of everything else".
"I've people coming up to me saying Fianna Fail is in cahoots with the bankers and Sean Fitzpatrick of all people," one TD said. "There's a certain amount of worry. People are asking if Brian Cowen is the man to lead us into the General Election."
Mr Cowen is set to be quizzed in the Dail by Fine Gael and Labour today about his golf outing with Mr FitzPatrick in Druid's Glen in July 2008 -- just two months before the state banking guarantee for Anglo and other banks was introduced. Mr Cowen has insisted that it was a "social outing".
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore last night pledged to grill the Taoiseach on whether he knew he was providing a State guarantee to Anglo in the knowledge it was already "bankrupt".
"I used a phrase in the Dail which I was criticised for and that was that if they knew that the banks were bankrupt and the made the decision [to introduce state guarantee] then it was economic treason," Mr Gilmore said.
"I believe that if they knew, if they came into the Dail, if they proposed an arrangement for the guaranteeing of banks that they knew were in that kind of trouble, then 'yes', it was economic treason."
Last night, Fianna Fail Kildare South TD Sean O'Fearghail admitted it had been "electorally damaging".
But he said he didn't believe there is anything significant to be read into the whole affair: "Given the lack of truthful accounts of what was going on in the banks, it was highly unlikely that Mr FitzPatrick was going to lay his soul bare on the golf course."
However, another Fianna Fail backbencher said it was "not too late" to address the leadership issue.
"If we go into the election with Cowen as leader, the election won't be about our policies as against the opposition's policies. It will be all about 'golfgate'," the TD said.