Cowen denies 'suggestions of impropriety'

Tuesday 11 January 2011 20.43
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Brian Cowen - Move follows phone conversation with John Gormley
Brian Cowen - Move follows phone conversation with John Gormley
The Sunday Times - Contacts between Mr FitzPatrick and Cowen detailed yesterday
The Sunday Times - Contacts between Mr FitzPatrick and Cowen detailed yesterday

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has rejected any suggestions of impropriety on his part arising out of the publication of a book about Sean FitzPatrick.

Mr Cowen has said certain people were drawing inferences for political and other motives, which were 'malicious, unfounded and have no basis in fact.'

Click here to read the statement in full

He said the golf outing he attended with Mr FitzPatrick in July 2008 was in full public view, and there was nothing untoward about it, with no hidden or secret agenda and no concessions, favours or interventions requested or granted.

In relation to the earlier phone call from Mr FitzPatrick relating to the issue of the Quinn shareholding in Anglo, he said he had already been informed about the issue by the Governor of the Central Bank.

Mr Cowen said the continuing attempt to suggest that the Government's approach to the affairs of Anglo were 'influenced by political or any inappropriate considerations was utterly without foundation.'

The statement follows a telephone conversation between Mr Cowen and Green Party leader John Gormley.

The Government Chief Whip, John Curran, said the Taoiseach has also agreed to deal with the issue at Leader's Questions in the Dáil on Wednesday.

The Greens have said they will remain in Government until the Finance Bill is passed, which could be towards the end of February, suggesting an election around the end of March.

After a three-hour meeting this evening, the Cabinet is to meet again tomorrow to finalise the list of legislation it hopes to get through the Oireachtas before the election.

Opposition parties had been calling on Mr Cowen to give a full account of two previously undisclosed contacts with Mr FitzPatrick, which were revealed in The Sunday Times yesterday.

The events that the opposition sought an explanation of were the contacts that took place in 2008, in the months prior to the introduction of the State's bank guarantee scheme.

The first contact was a phone call to the then Minister for Finance in March 2008 warning of problems with Sean Quinn's shareholding in the bank. The second contact was a day of golf in Druid's Glen after Mr Cowen became Taoiseach.

Mr Cowen had confirmed that he played golf and had dinner with Mr FitzPatrick in July 2008, but insisted that the bank's affairs were not discussed.

The Government insists the Quinn information was passed to the Governor of the Central Bank, as was proper.

The Green Party had earlier said it is extremely concerned about the revelations.

Sinn Féin’s Finance Spokesperson has questioned the veracity of Mr Cowen’s statement.

In a statement, Mr Doherty said: ‘It is simply beyond belief that the Taoiseach spent up to six hours in the company of Seán Fitzpatrick without discussing the situation at Anglo Irish Bank.

‘This whole episode just highlights once again the cosy and inappropriate relationship between Fianna Fáil and senior bankers in this State.’

Opposition pressure

Fine Gael earlier called on Mr Cowen to further explain what exactly took place during the contacts, and said it is untenable for the Green Party to continue another day in Government with Fianna Fáil.

The Labour Party was also seeking more information on the discussions that took place.

Joan Burton said there is a 'serious contradiction' between what the Taoiseach is now saying about how he first heard about the emerging crisis in Anglo Irish Bank and what he has previously told the Dáil on this subject.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin urged the Green Party to withdraw from Government after the revelation.

Party president Gerry Adams said that the Fianna Fáil element in the Government had 'brass necks', but that the Greens now had the opportunity of bringing about an immediate general election.

Earlier, on RTÉ's News at One Fianna Fáil TD Ned O'Keeffe repeated his call on the Taoiseach to resign immediately.

Mr O'Keeffe said Brian Cowen had lost the confidence of the public.

He said he feared Fianna Fáil could win as few as 12 seats in the next General Election.