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Cowen under pressure over not disclosing talks with Anglo boss

Taoiseach Brian Cowen repeatedly failed to tell the Dail that he was contacted by Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick about the share ownership crisis in the bank, it has emerged.

The value of the bank's shares was collapsing in March 2008 - and part of the reason was that knowledge was growing in the markets of the gamble that businessman Sean Quinn had taken on acquiring 25% of the bank.

Mr Cowen has admitted that he took a call on his mobile phone from Mr FitzPatrick while he was on a St Patrick's Day visit in Kuala Lumpur in March 2008 in which he was told about the problem of Mr Quinn's secret stake.

But in a statement, Mr Cowen said he had been informed about Mr Quinn's shareholding in Anglo Irish Bank by the Central Bank Governor before getting the phone call from Mr FitzPatrick.

He said he told Mr FitzPatrick - who claimed that market speculators were trying to drive down Anglo's share price - that he would refer the issue to the governor of the Central Bank.

In the Dail, he repeatedly told TDs that he had been informed about the problem by official sources - the Department of Finance, the Financial Regulator and the then Central Bank governor John Hurley.

Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said Mr Cowen may have misled the Dail by failing to disclose that he had first learned about the problem from his "golfing pal Sean FitzPatrick".

"At best, the Taoiseach was being economical with the truth. At worst, he deliberately misled the Dail," she said yesterday.