Tuesday 28 March 2017

Cowen talked up 'soft landing' at secret fundraiser

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke about a soft landing for the economy at a €5,000-a-head corporate fundraiser which Sean Gallagher attended and helped organise.

The corporate donations made by the businessmen in attendance did not have to be made public by Fianna Fail because they were €100 under the legal threshold for declaration.

Mr Gallagher invited donors to attend the secret Fianna Fail fundraiser in July 2008 -- just a day before disastrous tax figures showed the downturn was well under way.

The Independent presidential front-runner says he had a minor role in the event and insists he had not asked the guests he invited for any money.

But a number of businessmen have told the Irish Independent they were contacted by him about the event.

"He phoned me. He said Cowen would be there. He met me at the door. He did the introductions. He was the chief bottle-washer," a source said.

The fundraiser took place on July 1, 2008, in the four-star Crown Plaza Hotel in Dundalk, Co Louth. The event was held in the restaurant on the top floor of the hotel, which has views of the Cooley Peninsula and the Irish Sea.

During the dinner, Mr Cowen spoke about the economy to the 40 businessmen from the north-east. "Cowen started to talk that night about the downturn. He said it would be a soft landing. He was chatting around the table. He was telling them how the country was going to work," the source said.

The businessmen present were from the retail, hotels, property and food sectors in the region.

The next day, the Exchequer returns for the first half of 2008 showed the tax take was already nearly €1.5bn down and the final figure was expected to be €3bn behind target.

Mr Cowen said he believed the Irish economy was capable of weathering the current economic storm.

Playing down his role in the event last week, Mr Gallagher said he had been responding to a request by Fianna Fail headquarters. And he said he had not asked any of the guests for money.

"No I didn't. I was asked if I would let local business people know that the event was on, which I did. But I collected no money," he said.

Irish Independent

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