Monday 27 February 2017

Taoiseach defends himself in Anglo golf storm

Michael Brennan and Aine Kerr

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night declared that he had not done "anything wrong" by playing golf with Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick.

He was speaking after the revelations of his contacts with Mr FitzPatrick sparked further doubts about his position as leader of Fianna Fail.

The Taoiseach said the reason he had not revealed details of his golf round and dinner with Mr FitzPatrick in July 2008 was because there was "nothing relevant" to the performance of his public duties.

And he defended his decision not to reveal earlier that Anglo director Gary McGann was among those who joined him for lunch afterwards.

"There was no discussion about Anglo Irish Bank. It was a more general discussion about the economy. There's no one suggesting that I did anything wrong," he said.

Mr Cowen, whose Government included Anglo Irish Bank in the state banking guarantee two months after the encounter, said that to suggest that he had been involved in something nefarious was totally wrong.

"People are seeking to draw a conclusion for which there is no evidence in fact. I never did anything, nor am I beholden to anybody throughout my public life. And I intend, however long I'm in public life, to keep that good name anyway," he said.

In a live interview with RTE's 'Six One News', Mr Cowen sent mixed signals about his desire to lead Fianna Fail into the General Election.

He said he wanted to give the country stability by passing the budget legislation and reaffirmed his position as the "democratically elected leader of the party".

But he said he would also listen to the democratic wishes of the party in a consultation process over the next 24 hours.

Government chief whip John Curran last night conceded that the 'Golfgate' controversy had been "difficult" for the party.

"But I do believe the substance of what the Taoiseach has said and I do believe there was no impropriety," he said.

Leadership

The chief whip added that Mr Cowen had clearly told TDs and Senators that it was his intention to lead them into the next General Election.

But if any individuals had concerns about the leadership, then there were strict party procedures and rules for dealing with these, Mr Curran said.

Any motion of no confidence in Mr Cowen as party leader would require two days' notice and 18 signatures.

During yesterday's meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party, outspoken backbencher Noel O'Flynn asked the Taoiseach if any cabinet ministers had approached him this week about his "own position".

Mr Cowen replied that this had not happened.

Irish Independent

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