The Taoiseach has told the Dáil he knew that a group of ten wealthy businessmen had come together to buy shares in Anglo Irish Bank last year in a transaction that is now at the centre of an investigation by the Office of Corporate Enforcement.

But Mr Cowen said the Regulator had accepted assurances from the bank itself that the disposal of an interest held by the family of billionaire business man Sean Quinn was legal.

The bizarre financial dealings at Anglo-Irish Bank dominated Dáil proceedings this afternoon, as Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore quizzed the Taoiseach on when he knew of attempts to shore up the bank's share price.

Deputy Kenny sought an assurance from the Taoiseach that no member of his Government was involved, directly or indirectly, in encouraging the move by Anglo to lend money to ten individuals to purchase shares in the bank.

While Mr Gilmore pointed out that the taxpayer now owns Anglo, and was entitled to know who was involved.

The Taoiseach said he did not know the identity of the ten people involved.

He added that there was no reference to the unwinding of the contracts for difference in the PricewaterhouseCoopers report into Anglo.

Mr Cowen said the Financial Regulator got legal advice from Anglo's advisors that this was a legal transaction and that was accepted at the time.

Anglo hospitality at Croke Park

Anglo-Irish has been criticised for extending five-star corporate hospitality at two matches in Croke Park over the past fortnight.

The Irish Catholic newspaper quotes two unnamed people who attended the receptions as saying that champagne was served at the Dublin-Tyrone National Football League match just over a fortnight ago.

The second reception was held at the Ireland-France 6 Nations rugby encounter.

The troubled bank was nationalised last month after predicting that it would lose €500m.

A spokeswoman told the newspaper the bank was 'particularly mindful of the current economic conditions'.

'It is expected that (its) new board will review activity in the area in due course.'

Campaigner for homeless people, Father Peter McVerry, said the bank's 'largesse... was an abuse of ordinary people's money' while anti-poverty campaigner Sr Stanislaus Kennedy said she would expect the government to intervene and stop the practice at the nationalised bank.

Former Anglo chair given millions in loans

It has emerged that former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick was given sterling and dollar loans worth tens of millions.

Irish Nationwide gave loans to Mr FitzPatrick as part of his transfers between the two institutions to conceal up to €122m in borrowings from Anglo Irish.

The Irish Times reports that Irish Nationwide provided Mr FitzPatrick with loans of $56m and £14m on 26 September 2007.

The building society also reportedly loaned the then Anglo Irish chairman $26m on 27 September 2006 with an undertaking from Anglo Irish that it would repay the loan if Mr FitzPatrick could not.

The report says that these borrowings form only part of Mr FitzPatrick's loans from Irish Nationwide in 2007, as Anglo Irish Bank said last month that he had repaid €122m.

Sean FitzPatrick borrowed from Irish Nationwide over eight years, drawing loans before Anglo Irish's accounting year-end on 30 September, and repaying it within days with fresh loans from Anglo.

By transferring the loans, the Irish Times says, Mr FitzPatrick hid them from the bank's auditors and shareholders.

The Financial Regulator and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement are investigating Mr FitzPatrick's loans.

He has declined to appear before today's meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Economic Regulatory Affairs, citing legal reasons for not attending.

Independent Senator Shane Ross is a member of the committee, which is seeking compulsory powers to force witnesses to attend.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Senator Ross said the committee system was in danger of becoming irrelevant if senior bankers were not compelled to attend hearings.

Committee Chairman Michael Moynihan expressed his disappointment at Mr FitzPatrick’s decision not to appear.

Mr Moynihan said many questions need to be answered by Mr FitzPatrick and others who had the responsibility for running the affairs of Anglo Irish Bank.