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I didn't know about Lowry's royal party, says Gilmore

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has denied any knowledge of an intimate gathering that saw Prince Albert of Monaco rub shoulders with disgraced TD Michael Lowry and banker Michael Fingleton.

Businessman and Honorary Consul to Monaco, Dr Michael Smurfit, did not inform officials in the Department that he was hosting the dinner party at the K Club at the start of the Prince's visit to Ireland.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton admitted that she was "shocked" to hear that Mr Lowry and Mr Fingleton were wining and dining with the royal visitor. Ms Burton said it was evidence "these guys have not changed their behaviour".



BONUS

The incident has embarrassed the new Fine Gael-Labour coalition which earlier this month called for Mr Lowry to resign as a TD in the wake of the Moriarty Report.

While in opposition Mr Gilmore was also one of Mr Fingleton's harshest critics when he refused to return a €1m bonus after his bank, Irish Nationwide, ran into financial difficulty.

At one point Mr Gilmore accused the previous Government of showing "no mercy" towards families struggling on social welfare, but claimed there was "an entirely different set of rules" for Michael Fingleton. Dr Smurfit owns a majority share in the K Club where Prince Albert is an occasional private guest.

The controversial dinner took place the night before the royal began an official visit that included a State banquet with President Mary McAleese.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that it played no role in organising the event.

"The first day of his visit was entirely private," they said, adding that it was not paid for by taxpayers.

However, it is not clear whether Mr Gilmore would speak to Dr Smurfit about the gathering. As Honorary Consul in the principality, the paper and packaging tycoon spends much of his time in Monaco.

His office sits above the Mediterranean and is situated just a short distance from the famous Monte Carlo Casino.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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