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Bank matters 'weren't discussed' at controversial meal

A FORMER Anglo Irish Bank director who was at the dinner attended by Taoiseach Brian Cowen and other Anglo bank bosses yesterday refused to comment on the event.

But sources close to Gary McGann, who was also head of the bank's audit committee, said that he agreed with the accounts given by Mr Cowen and Sean FitzPatrick of the Druids Glen event.

It is understood that Mr McGann agrees that the precarious state of Anglo at the time was not discussed, as both Mr Cowen and Mr FitzPatrick have claimed.

The two men played golf together at the Wicklow course along with another ex-Anglo director, Fintan Drury, who has been a friend and confidante of Mr Cowen since college.

Mr Drury organised the golf outing and asked economist Alan Gray and Mr McGann to join them for dinner afterwards.

There, they all discussed the economy. Mr Gray also said that Anglo did not come up in conversation.

Mr Cowen said they were just "shooting the breeze" and discussed issues such as the economy and the looming recession.

Mr McGann stepped down, along with other Anglo board members, after the bank was nationalised in January 2009.

While Mr McGann sat on the Anglo board, Sean FitzPatrick sat on the Smurfit board and the pair were friends.

A month later, Mr McGann also stepped down as chairman of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA). Ryanair had said his position on the Anglo board made his DAA job "untenable" and Mr McGann admitted that his resignation was influenced by events at the bank.

That resignation came just hours after Mr Cowen had insisted in the Dail that he should keep his DAA job.

The Taoiseach said people should not presume that he (Mr McCann) was "in the first instance informed, or in all circumstances au fait with any inappropriate or unacceptable conduct."

Mr Gray, who was appointed to the board of the Central Bank by Mr Cowen, said the dinner discussion at Druids Glen focussed on job creation.

"It focussed exclusively on initiatives to encourage new small indigenous firms and measures to attract additional investment to Ireland and other responses to unemployment," he said in a statement yesterday.

However, at the time there was almost full employment -- 2.1m people at work, compared with 1.8m today.

The unemployment rate stood at 5.5pc in July 2008 with 122,600 people out of work.

By comparison, there are currently 288,500 people unemployed, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.

In the middle of 2008, other aspects of the economy had taken a hit -- but there were not yet any fears of a major crisis.

Irish Independent