Friday 19 April 2019

Gilmore 'had no role' in prince's controversial dinner

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

TANAISTE and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore has insisted he did not know Prince Albert of Monaco attended a controversial dinner with Michael Lowry and Michael Fingleton during his visit to Ireland last week.

The Labour leader's deputy, Social Welfare Minister Joan Burton, said yesterday she was shocked by the reports of the unofficial gathering organised by businessman Dr Michael Smurfit, Ireland's Honorary Consul in Monaco -- a position controlled by Mr Gilmore's department.

The dinner took place in the K Club, which is owned by Dr Smurfit and is where Prince Albert usually stays when he comes to the country on private visits.

Prince Albert was accompanied by his fiancee, Charlene Wittstock, at the dinner.

Also on the guest list were disgraced TD Mr Lowry, the former Fine Gael minister officially reprimanded in the Dail the previous week following the Moriarty Tribunal report, and Mr Fingleton, the former Irish Nationwide chief.

Despite demands from the Government, disgraced former banker Mr Fingleton has refused to return a €1m bonus he got from the building society after it ran into difficulties.

Irish Nationwide provided the loan to Dr Smurfit and property developer Gerry Gannon to purchase the K Club in Co Kildare.

Expressing her shock at the attendance of Mr Lowry and Mr Fingleton at the dinner, Ms Burton said it was evidence "these guys have not changed their behaviour".

She said the controversial figures believed they could "go back to business as usual".

"If it's true, it's shocking," she told RTE radio.

The prince's state visit began last Monday, while the dinner happened on Sunday.

Mr Gilmore's department said the Tanaiste was not aware of the dinner and that the department had no role in organising it.

"No. The first day of his visit was entirely private," a spokesman said. "There would have been no state expenditure on that part of his visit."

Irish Independent

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