Thursday 5 December 2019

FF vetoed summary of Oireachtas probe over 'Galway tent' references

The dumped summary also made reference to Brian Cowen’s long-time friendship with former Anglo non-executive director Fintan Drury (pictured). Photo: Tom Burke
The dumped summary also made reference to Brian Cowen’s long-time friendship with former Anglo non-executive director Fintan Drury (pictured). Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Fianna Fáil members of the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry vetoed a draft executive summary which referred to the party's infamous tent at the Galway Races.

The document also highlighted contradictory evidence given by former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen about a meeting they held, after Mr Cowen received a phone call from then Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick.

The draft also contained more robust language than appeared in the final report, accusing key organisations and players of "greed, negligence, laziness, incompetence and ignorance".

However, the draft summary, a copy of which has been obtained by the Irish Independent, was rejected as "too political" following objections from Fianna Fáil members of the inquiry team.

It was written by the Labour Senator Susan O'Keeffe at the request of the inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch - after members had already rejected an earlier executive summary written by civil servants because it was not considered political enough.

In the end, due to time pressure, no executive summary was published with the final report.

The €6.5m inquiry has been severely criticised amid claims it pulled its punches in the final report. Commentators have also noted that Fianna Fáil came out of the report relatively well, despite leading the Government immediately before and after the crisis.

While the final report was critical of the economic policies of those Governments, it found the policies of the main opposition parties were broadly similar. The report also did not back up claims by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that an "axis of collusion" existed between Fianna Fáil and bankers.

Contacted about his rejection of the draft summary, Michael McGrath, one of two Fianna Fáil members on the inquiry team, said: "I'm not going to go into it."

Mr McGrath accepted there had been a "mixed" reaction to the report, but insisted he was satisfied with the work done.

The other Fianna Fáil representative on the inquiry, Senator Marc MacSharry, confirmed he had issues with the draft summary, but did "not want to get into the nitty gritty of the deliberations".

The dumped executive summary contained extracts from Mr Ahern's evidence to the tribunal, where he stated: "There was no big deal between the connections in the Fianna Fáil tent and the construction industry. It was a social occasion."

However, no reference to the Galway tent made it into the final report.

Senator O'Keeffe's summary also outlined differing accounts of the circumstances surrounding a meeting between Mr Ahern and Mr Cowen in March 2008.

Sean FitzPatrick had phoned Mr Cowen, who was in the Far East, in the aftermath of the 'St Patrick's Day Massacre' which wiped more than €3.5bn off the value of Irish stocks. Mr FitzPatrick was worried about the secret stake businessman Sean Quinn had built up in the bank.

Mr Ahern testified that Mr Cowen visited him at his north Dublin home on his way from the airport after the trip. But Mr Cowen said the meeting took place the following day.

This disparity in evidence is not detailed in the final report.

Contacted about the draft summary, Senator O'Keeffe said she was disappointed it was not used. "I tried hard to be neutral with the summary and thought that, with some collaboration and work on this draft, we could have a good strong summary that would tell the basic story for people who might not read the entire report," she said.

The dumped executive summary also made reference to Mr Cowen's long-time friendship with former Anglo non-executive director Fintan Drury, but the friendship was not mentioned in the final report.

Also contained in the draft summary, but omitted from the final report, was evidence from Mary Burke, head of banking supervision at the Financial Regulator, that the regulator had just three people supervising Bank of Ireland and Anglo and three looking after AIB and Irish Life and Permanent.

Another omission related to the Central Bank's sensitivity about the title of a draft financial stability report in 2007 examining international housing booms and busts.

Irish Independent

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