Taoiseach confirms contacts with FitzPatrick

Sunday 09 January 2011 23.04
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Brian Cowen - Played golf with Sean FitzPatrick at Druids Glen in July 2008
Brian Cowen - Played golf with Sean FitzPatrick at Druids Glen in July 2008
Sean FitzPatrick - Discussed Anglo shares with Brian Cowen in March 2008
Sean FitzPatrick - Discussed Anglo shares with Brian Cowen in March 2008

Taoiseach Brian Cowen had two previously undisclosed contacts with former Anglo Irish Bank Chairman Sean FitzPatrick in the months prior to the introduction of the bank guarantee.

In a statement to the Sunday Times, Mr Cowen confirmed he had dinner and played golf with Mr FitzPatrick at Druids Glen in Co Wicklow in July 2008.

However, Mr Cowen said that the affairs of Anglo Irish Bank were not discussed during the day.

Mr Cowen also confirmed that he took a call from Mr FitzPatrick concerning Anglo Irish Bank shares four months earlier when he was still Minister for Finance.

The Bank Guarantee Scheme, which included Anglo Irish Bank liabilities, was introduced in September of the same year.

The Minister for Social Protection has said that he is absolutely satisfied that the Taoiseach and Mr FitzPatrick did not discuss Anglo Irish Bank when they played golf and had dinner together in July 2008.

Eamon Ó Cuív told RTE's The Week in Politics that it would have been a ‘most wrong place to have that type of discussion.’

He said that following the phone call between Mr Cowen and Mr FitzPatrick in March 2008, the Governor of the Central Bank had been informed and it was up to him and the Regulator to make sure everything was investigated.

Asked why the Green Party were concerned about today's revelations, Mr Ó Cuív said that Senator Dan Boyle tended to be concerned about everything.

Earlier, Senator Boyle has said that his party views the substance of the article 'very seriously' and it is 'concerned' about the details revealed in it.

Mr Boyle said the Green Party is today seeking explanations about the meetings between Mr Cowen and Mr FitzPatrick.

Labour Finance Spokesperson Joan Burton said it is 'beyond belief' there was no discussion in July 2008 of the bank's position, given that its share price had collapsed on St Patrick's Day 2008.

Ms Burton said: 'I am deeply concerned at further revelations today of contacts between the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the former Anglo Irish Chairman Sean FitzPatrick in March 2008 and July 2008.

'It is surely beyond belief that there was no discussion at these encounters of the rapidly deteriorating position of the bank.

'The public is entitled to a full account of the Taoiseach's state of knowledge of the true position of the bank's balance sheet in the period before that fateful night.'

Ms Burton also called for the creation of a truth commission in relation to the banking crisis and Mr Cowen's role.

'Before citizens are asked to accept any further sacrifices they are entitled to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth from Brian Cowen,' she said.

Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter has said it is not believable that no discussion of Anglo Irish Bank's affairs took place during the Druids Glen encounter.

Mr Shatter said the Taoiseach needs to explain why he concealed public knowledge of the contacts and whether he informed Green Party ministers of them.

He said the revelations totally undermine any remaining credibility Mr Cowen has.

Minister of State John Moloney has said when the facts emerge, people will realise there is no big issue for concern.

Mr Moloney said there was nothing hidden about what he described as a public golf outing and that it did not presume that issues of concern to Anglo Irish Bank would be discussed.

The Sunday Times published extracts of a book, 'The FitzPatrick Tapes', in which Mr FitzPatrick discusses the bank's role in the financial crisis.