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No 'gangster' apology for Fingers and Seanie

THERE will be no Dail apology for disgraced former bankers Michael Fingleton or Sean Fitzpatrick who were branded 'gangsters' in a public debate.

Fine Gael chief whip Paul Kehoe sparked controversy when he said that the Irish Nationwide and Anglo Irish Bank executives were "two of the biggest gangsters ever involved in banking institutions".

"Messrs FitzPatrick and Fingleton can walk away with golden handshakes, not at all worried about the people who are unable to pay their mortgages," he added.

Mr Fingleton wrote an angry letter of complaint and said that the comments were "outrageous, reckless, misinformed and extremely defamatory".

"I now demand that Mr Kehoe be requested by the Chair to publicly withdraw these false allegations and to apologise to the house for his actions," he wrote.

"The allegations suggest that I have engaged in criminal activities, which is the most serious charge and accusation that can be made about any citizen, and to be able to do it maliciously and openly under privilege without any opportunity of defending oneself is totally and absolutely irresponsible," he wrote.

The retired Irish Nationwide chief executive asked for action to have the comments withdrawn and erased from the record.

Mr Fingleton stepped down from Irish Nationwide last year following a sustained campaign of political pressure over a controversial €1m 'loyalty' bonus, agreed when he turned 70.

There was further outrage when it was revealed Mr Fingleton would receive a pension worth €27.6m when he stepped down from his position after 37 years' service.

Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk asked the FG chief whip to consider withdrawing the offending phrase and Mr Kehoe asked for time to consider this request.

However, Mr Kehoe said that that he was speaking from prepared notes during the NAMA debate.

"I have decided that I have said what I said and I am not withdrawing," he said. "'It wasn't off the cuff."

Now Dail authorities have ruled that the Wexford TD will not have to withdraw the remarks or apologise.

Mr Kirk wrote to Mr Kehoe last month and said that his statement was "inappropriate" but was not a breach of the privilege rules.

"I am to inform you that while the committee found that the remark made by you was inappropriate, it was agreed, taking into account the circumstances in which it was made, that prima facie a breach of privilege did not occur," Mr Kirk said.

Analysis, See Page 15