Tuesday 28 February 2017

No evidence of any wrongdoing by Taoiseach, says Gormley

Green leader John Gormley hit out at Taoiseach Brian Cowen today for not earlier revealing previously undisclosed contacts with disgraced Anglo Irish Bank boss Sean FitzPatrick.

But Mr Gormley said his party could find no evidence of any wrongdoing in the telephone conversation, dinner and round of golf Mr Cowen enjoyed with the ex-Anglo chief in 2008.

The Taoiseach last night stressed there was no secret agenda behind the outing at the exclusive Druid's Glen resort two months before he oversaw a plan to save Anglo and other banks from collapse.

Mr Gormley said the Greens checked if Mr Cowen's account stacked up and made inquiries to the Department of Finance.

"We're not Sherlock Holmes," Mr Gormley said. "We've done what we can under the circumstances and we've found no evidence (of impropriety)."

Amid demands for a full explanation of his relations with the ex-Anglo boss, the Taoiseach admitted playing the round on the Wicklow course in July 2008 but insisted Mr FitzPatrick's now defunct property bank was not discussed.

The golf match and an earlier phone call - not revealed until interviews with Mr FitzPatrick were published on Sunday - took place as Anglo was brought to its knees by plummeting share value and the rest of Ireland's banking sector was on the brink of collapse.

Mr Cowen said the phone call he took from the now bankrupt ex-Anglo chairman while in Malaysia as finance minister in March 2008 related to concerns over the bank's shares.

Mr Cowen reiterated that he told Mr FitzPatrick he would relay his concerns to the Central Bank.

At the Green's pre-Dail think-in in Malahide, Mr Gormley said the Taoiseach should have revealed the contacts sooner.

"We do believe the Taoiseach should himself have put these matters into the public domain much earlier," Mr Gormley said.

"The matter in which they had been made public has unfortunately given rise to suggestions of inappropriate behaviour.

"As far as possible we have tried to establish whether there was any impropriety and we have been unable to find any evidence of this."

But Mr Gormley appeared to accept the Taoiseach's statement, and vowed to remain in Government until the Finance Bill is passed.

"We have read that statement, we have done our utmost to check the veracity of that particular statement and we can find no evidence or reason at this stage to actually disbelieve that," Mr Gormley said.

Fine Gael accused the Taoiseach of withholding information about his phone call with Mr FitzPatrick from the garda fraud investigation into Anglo, claiming the fact was being ignored by Mr Gormley.

Alan Shatter, justice spokesman, said: "John Gormley has admitted that the Taoiseach should have disclosed earlier his contacts with Sean FitzPatrick in 2008.

"I am now calling on John Gormley to clarify whether he regards the Taoiseach's failure to co-operate with the garda investigation into Anglo as improper and whether he has yet asked the Taoiseach to assist the gardai in their inquiries."

Mr Cowen made his statement after talks with Mr Gormley, whom it is understood was unaware of the contacts until Sunday.

The Taoiseach is expected to face questions on his relationship with Mr FitzPatrick in the Dail tomorrow.

Meanwhile, around a dozen Sinn Fein members staged a protest outside the Grand Hotel in Malahide where the Green think-in was being held.

Sinn Fein councillors Dessie John Ellis and Larry O'Toole walked up to the room where the Green Party members were meeting and asked to see leader John Gormley.

They were denied access but Mr O'Toole said he would have urged the Environment Minster to pull out of Government had he met him.

"Week after week, day after day we're finding out new things that have happened," Mr O'Toole said.

"He's the one that said he was going to be a watchdog for this Government. He's failed, he's failed miserably."

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