Belfast Telegraph

Cowen accused over bank knowledge

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has insisted there was no secret agenda behind a previously undisclosed golf game and dinner he shared with disgraced ex-banker Sean FitzPatrick.

Mr Cowen faced demands for a full explanation of the outing at an exclusive resort two months before he oversaw a crippling plan to save Anglo-Irish Bank and other banks from collapse.

The Taoiseach admitted playing the round at Druid's Glen, Wicklow, but insisted Mr FitzPatrick's now defunct property bank was not discussed.

"I want to take this opportunity to utterly refute any suggestions of impropriety on my part arising out of the recent publication of a book about Sean FitzPatrick," Mr Cowen said.

The Labour Party had accused the Taoiseach of giving contradictory accounts of how he first became aware of the crisis facing scandal-hit Anglo Irish Bank.

The golf match and a subsequent phone call - not revealed until interviews with Mr FitzPatrick were published on Sunday - took place as Anglo was brought to its knees by plummeting share value and the rest of the Republic's banking sector was on the brink of collapse.

Joan Burton, Labour's finance spokeswoman, claimed Mr Cowen suggested to the Dail in February 2009 that he heard about the bank's stock problems from official sources, including the Financial Regulator.

But Mr Cowen said there was nothing inappropriate in his contacts with now bankrupt Mr FitzPatrick. "I am quite clear that no discussions regarding Anglo Irish Bank took place," the Taoiseach said.

"It was a social outing in full public view. There was nothing untoward, no hidden or secret agenda and no concessions, favours or interventions requested or granted. Certain people are drawing inferences for political and other motives, they are malicious, unfounded and have no basis in fact."

Sinn Fein said the Government should step down. Gerry Adams, party president, said: "The FitzPatrick revelations again expose a Government which is incapable of governing in the interests of citizens. There is no public trust or confidence in the Government. It should go."

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