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Cowen denies Drumm claims about Anglo deposit

Taoiseach Brian Cowen today denied claims that he asked the State's money men to deposit sovereign funds in Anglo-Irish Bank in the months before it collapsed.

David Drumm, former chief executive of the bust bank, claimed the Taoiseach told him at a private dinner with the board that he had intervened in the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

Mr Drumm, now living in Cape Cod in the US, claimed Mr Cowen told Anglo executives that the State body had not done what he asked.

Anglo wanted about €300m of sovereign funds to shore up confidence in the bank as foreign investors fled and it neared collapse.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said: "The position is that there is no basis in fact for these claims.

"It has already been contradicted by the (then) chief executive of the NTMA."

Michael Somers, who managed national debt through the NTMA until retirement as chief executive in 2009, denied in an interview late last year that the request was made.

Anglo's bankrupt former chairman Sean FitzPatrick, who was at the private dinner with Mr Drumm in Heritage House on April 24 2008, said Mr Cowen told him he would "look into" the funding issue.

The allegations will further dent the Taoiseach's leadership as he sits down with TDs and Senators to discuss his future.

Mr Cowen offered to hold 48 hours of private and individual talks with colleagues amid huge speculation that 18 Fianna Fail parliamentarians were prepared to put pen to paper and force a vote of no confidence in him as leader.

Joan Burton, Labour's finance spokeswoman, said a proper banking inquiry was now needed.

"Brian Cowen's refusal to allow a thorough public inquiry into the banking crisis has now come back to haunt him," she said.

"He now faces a barrage of claims about his own contacts with senior Anglo Irish executives and these show just how economical with the truth he has been in his own statements."

The latest claim will add to pressures on the Taoiseach, who has faced several days of intense scrutiny amid revelations of previously undisclosed meetings - a golf game and post-match dinner and a phone call - with bankrupt Mr FitzPatrick in 2008.

Matters came to a head this week after the Taoiseach was publicly grilled in the Dail on Wednesday on these contacts.

Under pressure, he revealed the names of two other business chiefs who joined him and Mr FitzPatrick for dinner in Druid's Glen - Gary McGann, chief executive of Smurfit Kappa, who was a director of Anglo at the time, and Alan Gray, an economist appointed to the Central Bank board by Mr Cowen.

Coalition partner the Green Party said it has concerns about the new details.

The contacts took place from March to July 2008 when Anglo's share price collapsed, depositors fled and the bank neared collapse. In September that year, the Government brought in a wide-ranging bank guarantee to save Irish lenders.

Mr Cowen is also likely to be embroiled in further controversy over reports that Mr Gray was lobbied by Anglo executives to save the bank the day before the guarantee scheme was introduced.

Eamon O Cuiv, Minister for Social Protection, offered the Taoiseach his support.

"As far as I'm concerned Brian Cowen is the leader of the party," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned he has my full support as leader.

"And if I didn't have confidence in Brian Cowen obviously it would be invidious for me to stay as a cabinet minister in this Government."

PA Media