Tuesday 21 May 2019

FG insider briefs the top bankers at private dinner

Cox marks the card of corporate elite on crisis

PAT COX: 'Insight' on crisis
PAT COX: 'Insight' on crisis

Tom Lyons and Daniel McConnell

Pat COX, the one-time Fine Gael presidential contender, briefed the country's biggest bankers, accountants and business people two weeks ago on the need for austerity in Ireland and the European financial crisis over dinner in the five-star luxury of the Shelbourne Hotel.

Cox socialised with Richie Boucher, the chief executive of Bank of Ireland, and David Duffy, the boss of AIB, as both banks gear up to lay off thousands of staff.

The gourmet private dinner with vintage wines is believed to have taken place in the Shelbourne's famous Constitution Room, where the founding document governing the State's sovereignty was drafted in 1922.

Cox addressed the dinner of 17 people on the European financial crisis and the prospects of a referendum on proposed new European Union austerity rules.

He also discussed the view from Europe of Ireland's troubled banking sector.

According to an observer, Cox and his fellow guests did not stay on to drink in the hotel's prestigious public barrooms but instead remained behind closed doors in their private dining room.

The identities of all the other attendees, described as a group of men in their 50s and 60s, are not known but they are understood to have been a mix of chief executives, accountants and lawyers.

"It was interesting to get an understanding about the significance and the meaning of the German state elections and their significance in the wider European crisis. It was about putting the German elections into context," one attendee said.

The attendee said that it was not just a room of bankers but also included invitees from the top echelons of Irish business who have a keen interest in the European debt crisis. "It is not unusual to have someone who can give a unique insight to speak to a room of people like this," the source said.

"[Mr Cox] did attend an event in the Shelbourne," a spokesperson said. "He's on his way to Paris at the moment so won't be able to comment."

Cox did not return calls to his mobile on Friday to discuss the event or who paid for it.

A spokesman for Fine Gael said it was "highly unlikely" he would have sought its permission before attending a "private event".

Terence O'Rourke, the managing partner of KPMG since December 2006, is understood to have been the principal organiser of the dinner. KPMG declined to comment.

KPMG is the long-time auditor of Irish Nationwide, the rogue building society whose collapse has cost the taxpayer €5.4bn.

Bank of Ireland confirmed that Mr Boucher attended the event as a guest. AIB declined to comment.

Matthew Elderfield, the financial regulator, and Mike Aynsley, the chief executive of IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, are understood to have been invited to the event but did not attend.

Kevin Murphy, the chief executive of Irish Life & Permanent, is also understood not to have attended.

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