Wednesday 22 November 2017

Private dinner with Anglo Irish officials was 'purely social'

Susan O’Keeffe
Susan O’Keeffe

Clodagh Sheehy and Daniel McConnell

Brian Cowen has revealed details of a private dinner with Anglo Irish Bank board members just as he was about to become Taoiseach in the summer of 2008.

He said he went to the dinner with his friend of 20 years, Fintan Drury, who was a non-executive director of Anglo.

Mr Cowen insisted the dinner was purely a social occasion, which he attended as a courtesy.

He had never met with Anglo officials during his four-year term as Finance Minister.

This dinner happened on April 24, a month after the St Patrick's Day massacre when Anglo shares tumbled by more than 15pc.

Mr Cowen said the event had "no big speeches" and he had not taken any notes or had any briefing.

He was not accompanied by any official from his department, at which some Inquiry members expressed surprise.

Because he had not met these people before during his term as Minister, he felt it might be "discourteous not to accept their invitation".

He said he had never met former Anglo Chief Executive David Drumm until that night and it was the only time he had ever met him.

Mr Cowen was also questioned about having close friends and acquaintances in the banking and property sector. He responded that he did not have any.

"My acquaintances and close friends are quite mundane, not well-known" he told Senator Susan O'Keeffe.

She asked him how he would describe his relationship with Fintan Drury.

"He's a friend of mine for the guts of 20 years but I've never discussed his business with me in relation to Anglo Irish Bank," said Mr Cowen. He agreed that Mr Drury had visited his offices quite frequently but said they had just talked about "general things".

"We had good chats. But, as I say, never inappropriate discussions about Government business that would be best left with Government. I didn't ... I never did that."

Mr Cowen said three appointments he made to the board of the Central Bank and Financial Services Regulatory Authority were done on the basis of their suitability and competence.

Alan Gray, CEO of the economic consultancy company, Indecon; Brian Hillery who was chairman of Independent News and Media plc; and Dermot O'Brien, former chief economist with NCB Stockbrokers all met those requirements, he stressed.

"I would say to the committee I would know two of them personally, Alan Gray and Brian Hillery," he said.

"Brian Hillery is a person whom I hold in high regard. So I felt he would be ... his skill set would be helpful. Alan Gray, as I said, he's a competition economist."

Irish Independent

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