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Greens insist 'no evidence of impropriety on Cowen's part'

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen was granted a temporary reprieve last night after the Greens reiterated their pledge to stay in government until the Finance Bill is passed.

But Green Party leader John Gormley refused to say if he found Mr Cowen's account of his dealings with former Anglo Irish Bank chief Sean FitzPatrick credible.

With opposition parties set to ratchet up the pressure on the Taoiseach today and grill him on his dealings with Mr FitzPatrick, a cautious Mr Gormley stuck to insisting his party had not found any evidence of wrongdoing.

Backing off from intensifying the pressure on the Taoiseach, Mr Gormley said his party remained committed to staying in Government until the Finance Bill is passed and a General Election is called.

At a party think-in yesterday, the Greens concluded there was no evidence of "impropriety" on the part of the Taoiseach -- having expressed concerns on Sunday about the 2008 golf meeting that took place just months before the bank guarantee.


Labour's Pat Rabbitte last night claimed the Green Party's response was not an endorsement of Mr Cowen's version of events. "It's clear the Green Party is as sceptical as the rest of the country."

Sinn Fein's Caoimhghin O Caolain described the reaction as "pathetic", adding there was nothing that Fianna Fail could do that would prompt the Greens to leave government.

Opposition parties are set to question the Taoiseach on a dinner and golf meeting with Mr FitzPatrick in July 2008 which took place just two months before the bank guarantee.

They will be seeking further clarity on a phonecall in March 2008 in which Mr Cowen was informed about problems associated with the shares of businessman Sean Quinn.

The Green Party last night backed away from putting the Taoiseach under further pressure and vowed to see through their commitment to pass the Finance Bill.

But Mr Gormley did not provide any full or unequivocal support for Mr Cowen.

"We are not Sherlock Holmes. We have found out what we can under the circumstances and we have found no evidence," Mr Gormley said after the conclusion of his party's think-in in Malahide, Co Dublin.

The think-in was overshadowed yesterday by the controversy which Mr Gormley himself labelled "golfgate".

And the party's previous think-in was overshadowed by "garglegate", the Green Party leader said in reference to the controversy surrounding the Taoiseach's interview on 'Morning Ireland' last year.

Mr Gormley said his officials had been in contact with Department of Finance officials on Monday and been "told categorically that no representations were made".

But he conceded that the Taoiseach should have put details of the meetings with Mr FitzPatrick into the public domain earlier.

"There's no question that when you have an incomplete record, it does give rise to suspicion. But the fact is we have tried, as best we can, to establish if there was any wrongdoing, if there was any impropriety and we can't find any evidence of that," he said.

On Monday night, the Taoiseach issued a statement to "utterly refute any suggestions of impropriety" on his part. He said no discussions regarding Anglo Irish Bank took place during his infamous golf outing with Mr FitzPatrick.

The Green Party is facing an immense battle to hold its six seats in the upcoming General Election. But party chairman Dan Boyle said it would be going out to defend the six seats and targeting three more constituencies in which it believes it could win.

"The election is not a foregone conclusion," Mr Boyle said at the conclusion of yesterday's think-in.

Irish Independent