Belfast Telegraph

Cowen urged to explain bank talks

The Green Party is demanding an explanation from Brian Cowen about previously undisclosed talks with former Anglo Irish Bank chief Sean FitzPatrick in the run-up to the State banking guarantee.

John Gormley, leader of the junior coalition partners, has asked to talk personally with the Taoiseach on Monday specifically about the latest revelations.

Mr Cowen confirmed he played golf and dined with Mr FitzPatrick two months before the taxpayer-backed bailout to save Anglo and other homegrown Irish banks from near collapse in September 2008.

It was also revealed in The Sunday Times that the Anglo boss telephoned Mr Cowen in March that year, while he was still Finance Minister, about concerns over the bank's plummeting share value.

Mr FitzPatrick said he flagged up issues with tycoon Sean Quinn's holding in the rogue lender during the call. The Taoiseach said he vowed to pass the concerns on to the Central Bank governor at the time and did so.

Mr Cowen also insisted the meeting at Druids Glen Golf Club in Co Wicklow in July 2008, along with his old friend and former Anglo director Fintan Drury, was a social outing and they did not discuss the bank's problems.

It is understood Mr Gormley was unaware of the contacts until they were published in the newspaper this morning and was said to be concerned at the revelations.

Joan Burton, Labour's deputy leader and finance spokeswoman, said it stretched credulity that Anglo's affairs were not discussed during meetings between Mr Cowen and Mr FitzPatrick. "It is surely beyond belief that there was no discussion at these encounters of the rapidly deteriorating position of the bank," she said.

Ms Burton said she was deeply concerned at the disclosures. "The guarantee of late September 2008 to Anglo Irish Bank has been the direct cause of huge losses imposed on Irish citizens running to more than 34 billion euro to date," she said.

"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."

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