Dáil debates

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

2:30 pm

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Before starting with Leaders' Questions, as Members will know, we have three Opposition party leaders, Deputies Kenny, Gilmore and Ó Caoláin. As they have seven minutes each, I respectfully request them to endeavour to keep within the time limits. I call Deputy Kenny.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The longer this sham of a Government continues, the more unfortunate it is for our people and for our country. Last Sunday, the Sunday Times revealed two hitherto undisclosed meetings between the Taoiseach - both formerly, as Minister for Finance, and as Taoiseach - and Mr. Seán FitzPatrick of Anglo Irish Bank. I want to make it clear that I have no objection to the Taoiseach meeting people or playing a round of golf. What this does, however, is to cement in people's minds the close, cosy relationship between the Fianna Fáil Party, big business and bankers. In its own way, it has destroyed public confidence both in politics and in the future of our country. As a consequence, it has put so many people in fear, anxiety and financial difficulties.

On three occasions last year, the Taoiseach refused to say that matters about Anglo Irish Bank were discussed at a dinner function he had with the board of that bank. On 31 March, in response to a question from myself, he said he treated this with contempt. On 10 November, in response to a question from myself and Deputy Burton, he said he had spoken about the economy in general and that no matters relevant to Anglo Irish Bank were discussed at that dinner.

A book entitled The Fitzpatrick Tapes, published last Sunday, describes in some detail the setting of that last supper. The Taoiseach, flanked by Mr. Drumm and Mr. FitzPatrick, was given an account from the various sections of Anglo Irish Bank of the loan position and was informed that the NTMA did not wish to invest in the bank. The Taoiseach was asked to do something about this, to which he indicated he would look into it. The background to this has destroyed the confidence of so many people and it is for them that my concern is - the suppliers who are not being paid by subcontractors, the young mother whose father has Alzheimer's disease-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Does the Deputy have a question?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----whose sister has mobility problems and who has now lost her job, and so many thousands of people who see their wages and salary cheques being reduced by higher income taxes and other levies.

I have two questions for the Taoiseach. First, can we now take it that the three occasions where he met Mr. FitzPatrick and where he was in contact with him - the telephone call to Kuala Lumpur on St. Patrick's Day, the occasion of the dinner with the board of Anglo Irish Bank, and the round of golf - represent an end to the social and business contact he had with him? Second, in the light of the direct contradiction between the Taoiseach's report of the Anglo Irish Bank dinner and the report of Mr. FitzPatrick in the book published last Sunday that there were matters relevant to Anglo Irish Bank discussed there and that the Taoiseach undertook to do something about it, will the Taoiseach indicate which is the truth?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am not too sure if it was just in relation to the introductory statement Deputy Kenny made that I regarded whatever he said with contempt, but there was basically the assertion that in some way there is an untoward issue that arises as a result of any contact that took place. That is a narrative which has been conducted by the Opposition on an ongoing basis. When one gets to the nub of it, the claim is that this triangle they talk about, of Anglo Irish Bank, Fianna Fáil and developers, means that in some way Fianna Fáil has been involved in subjectively protecting people and all this sort of stuff. This has been the constant narrative. I want to refute all of that as without foundation.

Second, in regard to what Deputy Kenny has asked me, I do not recall at any time such a request coming to me from Mr. Drumm to talk to Dr. Michael Somers. I suppose the best way of deciding whether it happened or not is to know whether I did make such a request, which I did not, and that has been confirmed by Dr. Somers himself. That is as far as I can take it. There is no question of any inappropriate behaviour by me in respect of that matter at any time during my period as Minister for Finance or as Taoiseach.

The Deputy's second point relates to what he called a cosy relationship. Any Minister for Finance would know the chairmen of the three biggest banks in Ireland. I had no closer a relationship with Mr. FitzPatrick, based on my job as Minister, as any of my predecessors would have had with him or with the chairman of AIB or the chairman of Bank of Ireland. I have met them all from time to time in the conduct of my duties.

In the first instance in regard to the telephone call in March, I was away in Malaysia and Vietnam doing St. Patrick's Day work on behalf of the Government. I was in Vietnam by the time a telephone call was made to me. I was away on St. Patrick's Day when, as people will be aware, a share price drop happened in Anglo Irish Bank. It was related to the fact that Halifax Bank of Scotland's share price had dropped considerably, and there was a read across to Anglo Irish Bank which had a similar monoline-type portfolio. That was one issue. I had been notified in early March by the former Central Bank Governor, Mr. Hurley, who has confirmed this, that there was market intelligence suggesting that Seán Quinn had taken a contract for difference position in relation to Anglo Irish Bank and that this was an issue that was being looked at to try to verify the extent of it.

Before I took a telephone call from Mr. FitzPatrick, as I felt was the appropriate thing to do as Minister for Finance, I telephoned the Central Bank Governor asking for an update. I had heard that there had been a share price drop since I was away - my private secretary from the Department of Finance would have accompanied me on those trips. My wife also accompanied me and at that stage we had completed our work and were taking a couple of days in a resort in Vietnam whose name I forget. The Governor told me that there had not been any further developments since he had spoken to me last. I said that was fine and then telephoned Seán FitzPatrick as requested, or perhaps he telephoned me. Fintan Drury would have been the person who telephoned me to say Mr. FitzPatrick was looking to talk to me. When Mr. FitzPatrick spoke to me he brought me up to date as to what had happened. I said to him that this was a matter that would be dealt with by the Central Bank Governor, or by the regulator as CFD issues are a regulator issue. I telephoned back Mr. Hurley and told him the position and said to him to make sure it was followed up. On the following day, Good Friday, heading into the Easter weekend - Easter being the weekend after St. Patrick's Day week that year - the Central Bank Governor and the Financial Regulator met with Anglo Irish Bank in Central Bank offices.

In my opinion, that was the appropriate way a Minister should handle that situation, and it was subsequently followed up by the Financial Regulator. There was then a change of Administration where I became Taoiseach and Deputy Brian Lenihan became Minister for Finance. The Minister has outlined to various committees the situation from then on. In July, as people will be aware, it became public news that the Quinn position had been unwound and we were told that other investors had been found. The Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, would not have had available to him under the law the names of those investors, and nor had I at any time. We now know, subsequent to the guarantee and subsequent to a due diligence procedure which was done in Anglo Irish Bank, that corporate governance issues arose and that matters were referred to the Director of Corporate Enforcement and to the Garda. That investigation is ongoing and is now with the DPP, so I cannot say anything more than that about it.

The third issue was in regard to the situation in July. On 23 July we had our last Cabinet meeting before the break after which I went to play golf at the request of a friend of mine, Fintan Drury. Also in attendance at that time was Seán FitzPatrick. I do not play much golf and have not played golf with Mr. FitzPatrick before then or since. It was the only time I ever played golf with him. That game took place and I did not discuss Anglo Irish Bank matters with him throughout that period. The appropriate way to behave if one is having a serious discussion about something like that is that one would bring the person to the Department and there would be officials in attendance. As Taoiseach, I would bring the Minister for Finance if he was available and such a discussion would take place. I am not in a position to concoct a story to say that there was some part of the day when it was discussed, because it was not discussed and that is the truth. I have no reason to say otherwise. Those are the three incidents.

If I may, A Cheann Comhairle, for the purpose of bringing this to a complete position, I will deal with the politics of it. The whole charge behind all of this, when one comes to the nub of it, is that Fianna Fáil did something it should not have done on the night of the guarantee for these people.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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That is the truth.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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That is the narrative that the Labour Party and Fine Gael - the latter from time to time, though not as often - have put about non-stop. Of course, it resonates for them and they are obviously getting some votes out of it. I want to make it as crystal clear as I possibly can that every decision we made at a time of great crisis in this country was objectively based. Everything we did was for the purpose of seeking to protect the interests of this country.

If people want to read the reports, including the Honohan report and Regling-Watson report, but particularly the former, they may do so. The Honohan report outlines the seriousness of the situation that faced this country on the occasion in question. It outlines what had happened over the weekend in question. It outlines the closure or failure of Fortis bank, it refers to the growing problem in Bear Stearns and states the TARP toxic asset plan in Congress was rejected over the weekend in question. All of that meant we had a systemic problem facing us on the night. It did not pertain solely to some specific institution because the whole system was at risk. The Honohan report confirms that if the guarantee had not been implemented, the doors of the banks would have been closed within days. I paraphrase the report. Those are the facts.

The argument of the Labour Party, which at the time in question totally opposed the guarantee and said there should have been none - it has modified its position since then-----

Photo of Emmet StaggEmmet Stagg (Kildare North, Labour)
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It never said that.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It did and it is on the record. It said there should be no guarantee when I and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, came into the House on 29 September.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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The Taoiseach should check that.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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If there had been no guarantee, that bank and all the banks would have failed. The party then argued: "It was not a systemic bank, it was your friend's bank; that is why you saved it."

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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That is right.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is not, because it is a systemic bank. Professor Honohan says so and that it is beyond question-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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If the Deputies want me to quote him, I can do so. I have the quotation.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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One at a time, please.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It is beyond question that is the case. Let us not distort the facts.

One of the points I would like to make in the House, which I will finalise in terms of the first of the questions Deputy Kenny asked me, is that people can have differences of opinion about many matters. In any crisis, one can consider a number of options and decide what is the best approach. We took the most assertive action and the action we believed was the right one to take.

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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The Government panicked.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We were the first country to have to take the guarantee option. Subsequently, Denmark came forward with a guarantee option and used senior debt. The template of all the guarantee options is that of Sweden, which introduced a blanket guarantee in the 1990s when it had to try to save its banking system. Of course, circumstances are different in every country-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Correct.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Even if one considers the initial Northern Rock guarantee, one will note it had to be widened by the British Government a short time after its introduction because it did not, I presume, provide sufficient credibility for the markets to ensure the run on the bank would stop.

Hindsight is great and people do not want to talk about the subordinated debt, which was 3.3% of the total. The Labour Party is 100% wrong because there is an argument about that. There was a reason one would include subordinated debt, and it has been set out ad nauseum to finance committees and Opposition spokespersons and Government Deputies, all of whom quite rightly asked questions on the possibility of a default being established and there being a cross-over between dated subordinated debt and senior debt. That is a technical issue. However, it is absolutely clear that there was an objective necessity to introduce a guarantee for the Irish banking sector because of the systemic nature of the problem we faced, and that if it had not been introduced, there would have been disorderly closure and failure of seismic proportions in our economy.

Those are the facts. One can argue the matter any way one likes but must acknowledge those are the facts. Therefore, I reject utterly the contention to the contrary in the interest of the good name of the people who support my organisation and who enter this House as democrats and make the right decisions by their best lights, and the people who support us in government. We made that decision for those reasons and for no others. No game of golf, telephone call or dinner will change that. To suggest otherwise is to circulate a patently absurd conspiracy theory which is perpetuating the problem and doing a greater disservice to politics in this country than any actions this Government honourably took in a crisis.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Correct "honourably": it is all the other actions the Government took.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach has taken quite a long time to answer two simple questions I asked him. He did not answer either of them. I made no assertion against him. I did not assert that he intervened in any wrong way. I asked him two simple questions. I noted the intensity of the Minister for Foreign Affairs as he was looking at the Taoiseach when replying. It is a bit like-----

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Could Deputy Kenny return to the issue at hand?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It is a bit like the last days of the Taoiseach's predecessor when we had all the explanations about dollar and sterling deposits and Fianna Fáil money for people to buy houses. In the end, it all boiled down to a simple statement that the Taoiseach's predecessor won the money on a horse.

A Deputy:

The horse outside.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I did not ask the Taoiseach who won the game of golf or whether Mr. FitzPatrick-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Let us be relevant.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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On whose side is the Ceann Comhairle?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Ceann Comhairle started this session by asking Members to remain within the time limits. I did so.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Yes.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach spoke for at least ten or 12 minutes in his response. I did not ask the Taoiseach whether Mr. FitzPatrick whinged or moaned his way around the golf course, or even whether he gave him that putt or who took the money, if there was money on the game.

The Taoiseach offered a long litany. He quoted Professor Honohan and did so last weekend. What happened in July 2008 is referred to in Professor Honohan's report. It states:

In the week to 04/07, Irish financials fall sharply and underperform European peers. [...] S&P also lowers its [...] outlook for Anglo's A rating from 'stable' to 'negative'.

In the week to 10/07, Irish financials continues their sharp fall. [...] There are negative comments on Irish banks from Goldmans, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Lehmans and RBS. [...]

In the week to 18/07, [...] the use of contracts for difference (CFDs) come into focus over the period amid media reports that Ireland's richest man [...] is estimated to be nursing a €500mn to €1bn loss from his 15pc leveraged derivative position in Anglo Irish Bank.

The Taoiseach would have known all this. He would have known, when he telephoned Mr. FitzPatrick at the request of Mr. Drury, having spoken to the Governor of the Central Bank, that there was certainly a problem.

Professor Honohan stated in his report: "it became quite clear to top FR decision-makers that senior Anglo figures were well-liked in political circles, and it cannot be excluded that this played a part in their subsequent continuation in office for some months after September." I wonder who Professor Honohan was talking about when he wrote that. It is fair to state, in terms of the facts we now know, the Taoiseach did make a call back when he was Minister for Finance, did meet the board of Anglo Irish Bank over a dinner and did have a round of golf.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I expect a question from the Deputy.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I would like to finish by asking three questions of the Taoiseach.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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We need fairness on both sides.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Two of them concern questions I already asked.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am being fair.

Deputies:

No, you are not.

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael)
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No, the Ceann Comhairle has not been.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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A Fianna Fáil version of fairness, I am sure.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy repeats that, I will ask him to leave the House.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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My concern relates to what has happened to hundred of thousands of people around the country, including the thousands who have left, the young students who are striving to have a career here, the workers who are working harder than ever and seeing their wages decreasing, the rising number of unemployed, the service providers who will not be paid by subcontractors, and the many who are in difficulty.

The Anglo Irish Bank files show clearly that the Department of Finance was informed regularly about the so-called golden ten in regard to the overhang of Quinn shares. Am I to believe the Department of Finance and the Taoiseach, who had recently vacated the office of Minister for Finance at the time in question, were not so informed, having had telephone calls from and other contacts with Mr. FitzPatrick?

Regarding the two questions I asked the Taoiseach, does he deny what was reportedly said by Mr. FitzPatrick as printed last Sunday in the book, namely, that Mr. FitzPatrick asked his people at the dinner to give the Taoiseach loan perspectives on their various sectors within the bank? Does he deny he was informed that the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, would not invest in Anglo Irish Bank and that he undertook to do something about it? Can I take it the three contacts of which we now know - the telephone call, the dinner with the board of Anglo Irish Bank and the game of golf - were the Taoiseach's only social or business contacts with Mr. FitzPatrick and that this is an end to it?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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First of all, regarding the question on whether executives at the meeting in April outlined some of their positions, I am not sure whether it happened.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach was very clear.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I do not have a written contemporaneous note of what went on. I do not remember every aspect. I am not trying to be opaque.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach stated clearly that it was not discussed.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am trying to be honest about what I recall and do not recall. Let me be straight with the Deputy. I want to be straight with the people, which is more important.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach stated there was no discussion of the details of Anglo Irish Bank.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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The bank-----

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach is a representative of the people.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Please Deputy Durkan, the Taoiseach without interruption.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach was very clear. He stated there were no discussions.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Whatever was said did not suggest the bank was about to go under. I guarantee the House that was not the situation. The issues were the nose dive in the commercial property market, which took place in the second half of 2008, and all the corporate governance issues that arose afterwards.

This is not the point anyway. The central suggestion here is that, by having this contact, I did things I should not have done, I asked or directed people to do things they should not have done, I did this or I did that. It is not true.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Taoiseach stated there was no discussion.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I acted appropriately at all times. I acted in the same way at that meeting as my predecessor would have acted at quarterly meetings I am sure he attended, and-----

A Deputy:

That is no great endorsement.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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-----probably more than one. It does not matter. If Deputies want to attach suspicion to what I did, which is what my predecessors would have done when attending such meetings, that is fair enough and we will all know the double standards being applied. At no stage did we do anything inappropriate. Everything we did we believed was in the best interests of our country in the context of the crisis facing us.

As regards social contacts, I do not believe I have had any further social contact with Mr. FitzPatrick since then. I am almost sure that is the case. In the job that one does as Minister for Finance, it would be extraordinary for one to spend one's time in office without meeting people who run banks during some stage in the course of one's duties.

Photo of Damien EnglishDamien English (Meath West, Fine Gael)
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And as Taoiseach.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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This is an absurd sense of puritanism that we need to avoid. I want to make it clear again that nothing untoward was done at any time. Regarding the specific call Deputy Kenny mentioned, I was away at the time. Before I took the call, I spoke to the Central Bank Governor. I also spoke to him afterwards. There was a meeting between him and the Financial Regulator the next day in his offices, followed by subsequent meetings. I do not see what is the problem.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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Did the Taoiseach inquire about the matter afterwards?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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This month, everyone who is fortunate to still have a job will open his or her pay packet to find a large hole in it. The same is true for people in receipt of social welfare payments. People who run businesses and put up signs about 50% off this and 60% off that are still having difficulty getting people through their doors. All of this is occurring because of the decision the Government asked the Dáil to make, namely, to provide a blanket bailout, guarantee or whatever one calls it that included Anglo Irish Bank.

As the Taoiseach stated in his reply to Deputy Kenny, the Labour Party opposed the guarantee at the time. We clearly differ on the matter and I do not want to go back over the arguments, although we can if the Taoiseach wants. The reason there is interest in what he discussed with Mr. FitzPatrick while playing golf, during the dinner and so on is simple. When the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance asked the House on 30 September 2008 to agree to the blanket bailout, did the former know Anglo Irish Bank was a bust bank? We want to pursue him on the question of his contacts with the board members and senior officers of Anglo Irish Bank because every time we asked him about his state of knowledge of the bank's position, how large a hole it was in and whether it was insolvent, he did not tell us about any of his contacts with Mr. FitzPatrick or the bank's senior officers. He never told us that Mr. FitzPatrick telephoned him in Malaysia, as the Taoiseach has now acknowledged. The House discussed the dinner which the Taoiseach attended at the invitation of the bank's board, as I understand it, but we heard nothing about the game of golf.

Let us take it from the top. The Taoiseach has now told us about the telephone conversation. A number of weeks after that conversation, he was invited to dinner with the board. To date, he has given the impression that the bank was not discussed at the dinner. He sat between Mr. Drumm and Mr. FitzPatrick. They claim Mr. Drumm made a presentation to the Taoiseach and asked that the NTMA provide deposits. Until now, the Taoiseach has given the impression that he just sat between the two men. I do not know what they talked about. Maybe it was the plot line of "Eastenders". The impression the Taoiseach has given is that, whatever it was they discussed, they did not discuss banking business.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Handicaps.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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In July, the very month during which the Taoiseach told the House the Quinn issue with Anglo Irish Bank was being resolved, the Taoiseach was playing golf with Mr. FitzPatrick. Given the comments made by the Taoiseach and on his behalf since the weekend, we have been led to believe he constructed some kind of Chinese wall down the fairway between him and Mr. FitzPatrick, in that they never discussed bank business. I would find it extraordinary - I would even blame the Taoiseach more - if he did not discuss the bank business with Mr. FitzPatrick.

Photo of Olivia MitchellOlivia Mitchell (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Exactly.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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Here was a bank, the shares of which had been in trouble since March and the Taoiseach had two opportunities to raise the matter with it. I acknowledge the Taoiseach's comments about formal meetings, the presence of officials and so on. However, it is incredible that the Taoiseach, a man who sat in the Minister for Finance's office and would have a certain amount of knowledge about the issue, did not at least ask about the bank's problems, whether they had been resolved or how things were going.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Can we expect a question?

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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He is about to put the question.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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It is what the Taoiseach has led us to believe. Let us be clear. First, did the Taoiseach discuss the bank's business at the dinner or the golf outing? Second, will he put on the record of the House all of his contacts with Anglo Irish Bank between the beginning of 2008 and the time of its nationalisation? I am referring to his meetings, formal, informal, social or whatever, with the bank's officers or members of its board of directors.

The Taoiseach went to considerable length to address the Labour Party in his response to Deputy Kenny, but is the bottom line not that the Government provided a bailout, a guarantee, to a bust bank and that the people must now pay for this through reduced incomes and social welfare payments, additional taxes, a loss of business and the economic problem with which they are trying to cope?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I will answer the Deputy directly. First of all, the difficulties we are facing in the economy, the cutbacks in expenditure and the tax increases with which we have to contend relate to the economic situation we are in, which relates to the economy itself, namely, the difference between what we are spending and what we are earning. As difficult as dealing with both this situation and the banking crisis is, if we did not have any banking crisis, we would still have these policies to pursue in terms of reducing our day-to-day expenditure and having a sustainable fiscal policy going forward. We are as mindful of this situation as anyone else in the House. We are implementing policies we believe are necessary to bring us back to recovery as quickly as possible so people can have a better future and we come out of recession. As we stabilise the economy and as our budgetary policy worked during the course of this year, as difficult as things are, we are now looking to the implementation of a four year plan to bring us back to growth, with all of the difficult decisions that involves. They are the right decisions for the state of the economy as it stands and it is because we want to get back to improving social services in due course on a sustainable basis and creating more jobs that we are taking these decisions. It is only by a consistent approach in being prepared to do that and having the political will to do it, as distinct from people talking about percentages and then coming up with policies that do not get us to those percentages, that we will actually be able to address the problems this country faces in every family and in every townland and in every village in the country.

My state of knowledge, as the Government state of knowledge, was based on the information that was being provided to it by the people who were serving, the regulators and the Central Bank and, as we know and as the reports point out, there are issues that have had to be reformed and had to be changed and we have changed them; we have brought in changes to address those issues, as we were recommended to do in those reports. Clearly, and it has been set out in terms of both the international and the domestic issues that affected this situation, there have been many reports and many recommendations that have come forward that confirm the analysis was wrong. External surveillance organisations, including the IMF, provided projections which did not turn out to be accurate either. That is no comfort to any of us who have had to deal with the outcome of the decisions that were necessary as a result of the financial system crisis with which we have had to contend and with which we still contend in the work we are doing.

As has been said in those reports, the primary focus of the regulatory system was on the liquidity issue. There is no doubt we had reached a situation on 28-29 September, as a result of what had happened over the weekend internationally and at home with deposits leaving, that it was necessary for us to bring forward something that would stabilise that situation and save the financial system. My state of knowledge was based on the advice we were getting. There was no other state of knowledge available to any of us and we were dealing with that situation based on those assessments that were before us.

Yes there were options but it was clear that on 28 September we had got to a point where we had a systemic problem, not simply a bank-specific problem, and there was no way in which we could take out of the equation any one of those institutions and in that respect, Anglo Irish Bank. In fact, Mr. Honohan in this report said that such a proposal would be an academic exercise since the disorderly failure of a bank that was not included in the guarantee would have had spill over effects right across not only the Irish economy but into the European banking system and the British banking system as well. In a recent current affairs programme on Monday night, Deputy Rabbitte spoke about this and has some knowledge and strong views on this area perhaps, but I take the point that he was saying there was incandescent rage with what we did from elements of British political circles. The point was this, we had no choice, we had to save the system here. The fact is we did not have a European-wide system in that case and we were the first country to introduce that guarantee system in the present crisis. It was subsequently taken up by other countries who were facing similar type problems. Those are the facts, that is the context in which we operated.

I am of the view - I state it for the reasons I have given, and I believe the reports are far more in favour of the decisions we took than any other suggestion that has been made - that the guarantee had to be decisive, assertive and had to confirm that we were going to stand behind the system at that time and it was that which avoided a disastrous, seismic economic shock in this country that would be far greater than what is being suggested.

When Deputy Gilmore mentioned that he did not agree with the guarantee for Anglo Irish Bank, what would have been the cost of letting that bank go at that time and in those circumstances? We would have had to pay up on the deposits that existed and that would have been far greater and the taxpayer would have to find billions of euros, including for credit unions and other pension funds, that were part of the deposit base of that bank. Let us be clear, we are not talking about some eclectic group of people in some other part of the world, we are talking about moneys that are part of the savings and part of the futures of working people in this country and people in credit unions and elsewhere. It was not an option and all of the objective evidence points to that.

People should consider that and get away from the game playing and get away, frankly, from the politics of smear that has been tried to be dressed up in some sort of respectable fashion, the smear that Deputy Gilmore has continued and has refused to withdraw that I made decisions, or the Government I led made decisions, that were about protecting personal interests rather than defending the common good and defending our country at a time of serious financial crisis. I reject that assertion with contempt. There is not one shred of evidence for Deputy Gilmore to make that contention except to continue with the political narrative from which he has drawn a reservoir of votes for the past two years at our expense or at my personal expense by suggesting I am an economic traitor. I am no economic traitor; I have sought to do this job to the very best of my ability with my colleagues in the common interest for the public good. I do not mind disagreement in political discourse but I still say to Deputy Gilmore, and say it to him honestly, as a person, as a colleague whom I do not personally dislike, despite the severity of that criticism, there is no basis in fact for that contention and it should be withdrawn because it does nothing for the debate and creating confidence in the integrity of our system in this country.

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Why did the Taoiseach not tell the gardaí about his contact with Seán FitzPatrick?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I have never made a personal attack on the Taoiseach in this House and I am not going to start now. What I said, and what I stand over, is that if the Taoiseach's Government knew Anglo Irish Bank was insolvent and he asked the Irish taxpayers to bail it out and to pay the cost we are now paying for it, that was and is economic treason. I stand over that.

The Taoiseach responds to me with a lot of "what ifs", what if the guarantee had not been given and the bailout had not been given. Let us concentrate on what is and that is the fact the Irish people are now having to pay a very big price for that mistake. The Taoiseach tells us that if there was never a banking crisis, we would still have a fiscal problem with the public finances. If we did not have the bank crisis, if the banks and their debts were not tied to the hip of the State, as happened under the bank guarantee, we would not be in the IMF. Yes, we would have a problem with which we would have to deal but we would be capable of dealing with it. It is because we have the bank crisis that the first line of the IMF deal is the money from our savings, the National Pensions Reserve Fund, must now go into bailing out those toxic debts and toxic banks.

In the entire reply he gave, the Taoiseach did not answer the questions I asked. I asked him to clear up whether he did or did not talk about bank business at the dinner and on the golf course - it is a straightforward question - and to tell us what other contacts, if any, he had with that bank and its officers. There is perhaps a more fundamental question. We are going back over the past and the Taoiseach talked about getting to the bottom of it and wanting to tell us everything that happened about the contacts with the banks. We asked for an inquiry into this that would include the political decision making, which we are now discussing, and the Taoiseach refused.

This is a new year and we are in a terrible place with the economy. People are being forced to emigrate, pay is being cut and families are having difficulties surviving. Most families in this country are now dealing with survival of the business and the household. In a new year, people want to move things on, they want to get the country working again and to get a Government that works. They want to get back to work.

Can the Taoiseach answer this question? How long more is he going to stay in office? How long more is his Government going to stay in office? How long more is he going to hang on before he gives the country the opportunity to move on and solve at least some of the problems which he and his Government have created for us?

Photo of Paul GogartyPaul Gogarty (Dublin Mid West, Green Party)
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How much does the Labour Party expect from SIPTU for its election campaign?

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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None.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Gogarty, An Taoiseach without interruption.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to answer the Deputy's questions specifically. I apologise if I have been a bit expansive but I wanted to set out the full situation because I have to defend the good name of my party too in all of this and the good name of the Government and its motivations in this area because it has been continuously attacked.

Photo of Pádraic McCormackPádraic McCormack (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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They will defend you too.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Yes. With regard to this golf outing, I know for a fact that if I could say, "Yes, we might have discussed something at some particular hole", the Deputy would find that more believable than if I decided not to do so. All I can do is tell the Deputy the truth and I cannot make it up for him. I am telling the Deputy we did not discuss Anglo Irish Bank business-----

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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At all?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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At all. The Deputy can be as smart and as smarmy and as cynical as he likes. I can only tell him the truth and that is the answer to that question.

Photo of Eamon GilmoreEamon Gilmore (Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
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I can ask a question.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy can ask a question but he need not throw up his eyes when I answer it.

The Deputy's second question was about the dinner. Other Deputies on Deputy Gilmore's side of the House have attended such dinners-----

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade and Commerce, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Gilmore should ask them.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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-----and they will tell Deputy Gilmore the context of such dinners.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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Not when we have run the country into the ground.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Quinn, please do not interrupt.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I suggest Deputy Quinn may want to read the reports. The responsibility for the situation can be spread wide-----

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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If the Taoiseach is going to drown, he can drown on his own.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Taoiseach without interruption.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am not drowning.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am trying to deal with the pejorative innuendo that continually emanates from the questions asked by the Deputy and his vitriol against my party and against my philosophy, which is just as good and as decent as his. So far as I recall, there was no discussion about Anglo Irish Bank, none. I invite the Deputy to check with other people who were present and see if they back up what I am saying. I am stating my recollection. I did not go there for that purpose, I was not there for that purpose, I was there for a broad economic discussion. This dinner had been arranged some months before and not as the result of a telephone call. I had not been able to fulfil the engagement at the time it was arranged and I subsequently fulfilled it before I left office and went on to become Taoiseach.

The Deputy asked about the future. The Government and I were elected by a majority of the Dáil. We have made a decision regarding the rest of our parliamentary programme, our legislative programme. We have to give legislative effect to the budget. This country needs certainty. International and domestic investors need to know that these decisions will be given legislative effect. Other legislation is at an advanced stage and requires to be completed because it will bring benefits to our citizens-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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Gone in a fortnight.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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-----and the Government legislative programme will not be prolonged in doing so. When the Finance Bill is concluded, we have indicated that during the course of the spring we will go to the people and put our case. All parties can put their case although many seem to be presuming the outcome. However, on this specific issue, on this controversy which has been created for the purpose of suggesting that I have been involved in some sort of nefarious activity that was wrong and unbecoming of a Taoiseach, I never did anything for anyone, at any time, in any ministerial office I held, for the purpose of undermining the public good, as I saw it. I do not claim to have the monopoly of wisdom in everything I ever did in my life but every decision was motivated for that purpose, as has been the case regarding any other Deputy who held ministerial office - I have never suggested otherwise - yet this charge is daily spoken against me. I do not consider it is necessary and the evidence does not suggest in any way that this should continue.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Ó Caoláin from the Technical Group.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Does the Taoiseach agree with his Cabinet colleague, the Green Party leader, Deputy John Gormley, that he should have revealed the details of all contacts with Seán FitzPatrick, when the issues and the questions were first put to him in the House? Having up to that point withheld the information that he had received a telephone call from Seán FitzPatrick on St. Patrick's day 2008, while in Malaysia, and also not revealing the detail of the fact that he had shared a golf outing and evening meal with him and others, in July of that same year, why did the Taoiseach think it was relevant then to make the point that he entered into a wedding reception area at the invitation of this Deputy, which I acknowledge he readily agreed to do and this was appreciated by all concerned on the day? This is an important fact to put on the record of the House again. However, only last Sunday, on "The Week in Politics" programme, the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Ó Cuív, could not finish his second sentence without repeating that clear irrelevancy.

Will the Taoiseach not accept that the offering of that information against the fact that he has withheld real, important and critical information, and has yet to shed even a scintilla of light on what it is that he may have discussed with Seán FitzPatrick and Mr. Fintan Drury or whomever, is clearly a further Fianna Fáil attempt to muddy the waters and to divert attention from the real core issues? The Taoiseach should make no mistake about it but that the core issue is his suitability, his credibility as Taoiseach and that of this Government.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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A question, please, Deputy.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Does the Taoiseach not understand that it is not only a credibility deficit in terms of Opposition or the wider public but it is clearly also a credibility deficit for many of the voices on his own benches and also for the Green Party, as evidenced by yesterday's press conference? There is a large credibility deficit.

As the Deputy who made the approach to the Taoiseach that day - I have already acknowledged his willingness and response - I have to put the question. We have been told the Taoiseach was in the company of Mr. Seán FitzPatrick and his acknowledged long-time friend, Mr. Fintan Drury. However, thinking back to two and a half years ago when I walked into that bar, I have no information nor can I offer any factual further comments-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Can we expect a question soon, please Deputy?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I am asking questions and with the same fairness, I would hope. Was there anyone else in the company? It is now some time later but my recall, from trying to work my way back through that two and a half years, is that it was apparent to me-----

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade and Commerce, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Would the Deputy go back a bit further?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----there were a number of people in the wider company and more than two. I was not introduced to them, I did not know them personally, I had never met Seán FitzPatrick before or since. Those are the facts.

It is important that the House knows the full truth of the matter. For instance, was any other official of the Taoiseach's Department or any other Department or of a State agency or anybody else involved in the course of that day's engagement, either peripheral to the golf outing or the meal or in any casual way over the course of the day, which would be relevant to this House to know and to have an understanding of what was taking place?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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In reply to the Deputy's first point about credibility, in doing one's work one meets people from all walks of life. In July 2008 I attended a golf outing with Mr. Drury. Mr. FitzPatrick was also there and I played a game of golf. It is true that when we moved indoors Deputy Ó Caoláin came over to speak to me. That was a social outing. We were joined that evening by Alan Gray, an economic consultant, Gary McGann, the chief executive of Smurfit Kappa, and my Garda driver, who also attended the lunch. These individuals came for dinner but only three of us were on the golf course. When Deputy Ó Caoláin came over, I went to the wedding breakfast as he suggested. The reason I said that was not to muddy the waters. There was no suggestion of meeting surreptitiously in a corner or a room. As the Deputy can attest, we were in the open part of the area where one is served a meal after a golf outing. Those individuals joined us and we spent the evening there. That was it.

In regard to the second point raised by the Deputy-----

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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How many were at the wedding?

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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Deputy Rabbitte put his finger on it. It is that ludicrous.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The Taoiseach has not shed a scintilla of light on what he discussed over the course of that afternoon and evening. His denial of any mention of Anglo Irish Bank is not being bought.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy, allow the Taoiseach to respond.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I do not know if the Deputy knows the song "Suspicious Minds" but I cannot help him if he believes that one starts to discuss these issues when one plays a game of golf. It was the first day off after that Dáil session. The last Cabinet meeting took place on 23 July and we probably quit on the Friday. We met on the Monday of the following week. I assure the Deputy it was a relaxing day and my purpose was to play a game of golf and-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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Shoot the breeze.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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-----shoot the breeze or talk in a social way with people with whom I was acquainted. While it might help the Deputy to believe me if I said I discussed a lot of things relating to Anglo Irish Bank, that did not happen. I will not say it happened just because it might make me more plausible to him. I have to explain it to him the way it was and that is it. I do not want to over egg the issue but these are the facts.

In regard to the question of regret, we know a lot of things have happened since then. At no time during those contacts was I asked to do anything inappropriate by the person concerned. I remember the telephone call as taking place on 20 March because we had finished our official engagements at that point. I had been informed by the Governor of the Central Bank of the emerging market intelligence on the issue arising in Anglo Irish Bank regarding CFDs and the position taken by Mr. Quinn. I was away on St. Patrick's Day, when the share price was hit very hard. Mr. Fitzpatrick informed me about those developments. To paraphrase, I said to him: "Fair enough, I will talk to the Central Bank Governor and you can arrange to take it up with the appropriate authorities to see how this matter can be proceeded with from here." A meeting took place the following day with the appropriate authorities in the Central Bank and it moved on from there.

When I was asked specifically in the Dáil about this famous dinner, I was dealing with the issues that arose in the context of the questions. What happened in respect of that telephone call was already in the public domain. Comments had already been made on the issue in early March. What would presumably have emerged from the meeting was an outline for the authorities as to where they saw the thing at that stage, what was happening and what was the extent of it. When the current Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, came in, as I said, I outlined that. In July, that part of the issue had supposedly been resolved. I am not saying it was resolved because, as we know, due diligence conducted subsequently revealed all these matters had to be investigated in terms of how that was organised.

These are the facts. I have no more knowledge than that other than what comes into the public domain or is reported to the Cabinet. I assure the House, for the final time, that we are all in politics. To answer the question about perception, I am acutely aware that people can draw wrong conclusions because we are in a fraught atmosphere and subsequent events occurred that were obviously projected back onto those issues. I want to make it clear that I have always sought, to the best of my ability, to do this job in the appropriate and proper manner. We all know right from wrong and I try to do the very best I can. As I have said, I have never accused anyone else in any other Government of not doing the best by their own lights or doing what they think is the right thing in the circumstances.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Ó Caoláin may ask a brief supplementary question. We have spent an inordinate amount of time on this matter.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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In regard to the additional people who the Taoiseach acknowledged were in attendance for the evening meal, were they invited by the Taoiseach, Mr. Fitzpatrick or Mr. Drury? Can he indicate the raison d'être for the selection of the particular group of individuals who were not part of the golfing outing? Is that the normal group of people with whom the Taoiseach spends social evenings? He has to acknowledge the considerable question mark that exists in the public mind. In July 2008, Anglo Irish Bank put together a list of ten names in an attempt to boost its collapsing share price. Seán Fitzpatrick has denied that he was ever exposed to the details of that list or the names involved but his successor, David Drumm, has contradicted him by stating clearly that he was fully informed about the names and the intent and purpose of the list.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should ask a brief question.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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We have a situation whereby the outgoing chief executive and his smiled upon successor are at loggerheads. Both of them cannot be telling the truth. Clearly there is a major issue.

I recognise that innocent situations can present in all our lives but it is stretching credibility to claim that the Taoiseach was involved in a social engagement with a key player who has been accused by his successor of not telling the truth. We are to believe that, in the context-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has addressed that point.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----of all that was unfolding in Anglo Irish Bank-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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He should not further elaborate.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----at no point in the course of a long afternoon and evening spent together did these matters arise.

This leads me to September 2008 and the evening when the Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We need to conclude Leaders' Questions.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----presented his case-----

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are very much into overtime, as the Deputy will appreciate.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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-----for the bank guarantee.

Photo of Ruairi QuinnRuairi Quinn (Dublin South East, Labour)
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More like injury time.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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In response to questioning from this Deputy about whether he was in possession of critical information which he had not shared, he stated there was nothing else. I specifically asked whether we were being requested to buy a pig in a poke.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Ceann Comhairle; Louth, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Taoiseach to answer the Deputy's questions so that we can bring these proceedings to a conclusion.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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We learned subsequently that Bank of Ireland and AIB had been in touch with him on the eve of his case being put to us. That information was not shared in this Chamber.

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Finance; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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It was shared.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It was not at the time.

That is the problem the Taoiseach and his colleagues have created, as well as all which they are responsible for in bringing this country to economic ruin.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Clearly, the Deputy has a predisposition about what his final position will be regardless of what I say. It is a clear line for the newspapers anyway.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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That is my position.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I know it is. I suppose that is what the Deputy was sent in to say. The point is that it is easy to throw that around but I am telling him the situation as it was. He said he had a problem with what I had to say. I am telling him that this is the situation. I am aware of the perception issue and how one might be able dress it up. It is a political charge and the Deputy wants to continue with it and leave a suspicion that, in some way, I did something. He cannot add it up nor can he adduce some evidence. However, he talked about July and about this, that and the other. He can make up a lot of dots and try to come with a picture. I have explained those specific issues in detail.

In regard to 28 and 29 September 2008, which have always been the core dates in terms of the controversy, I have explained precisely the motivation, reasoning, rationale, extent and the circumstances in which we had to make decisions and why we believe the great weight of evidence subsequently adduced is greatly in our favour. It is supported by the European Union institutions, in that all we have done has been the acknowledged to be the way to try to address this problem. It continues to be a big problem and I do not wish to suggest it is yet solved. All of that evidence-----

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Will the Taoiseach elaborate on the other invitees to his party?

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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That would have been organised by Fintan Drury who organised the golf outing. It was about being able to sit down with people at the end of the day and having a chat about the economy. The Deputy will recall we had a mini-budget and saw recession on the horizon and a big slowdown in our economy. As Taoiseach, I was there chatting to see if there were ideas and to find out other people's views of things and to see if things could be done which might be helpful. As the Deputy will know, those people would have some views on that. That was basically the total sum of it.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Banking never came up at all.

Photo of Brian CowenBrian Cowen (Taoiseach; Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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No. I will not say anything about where banking might have come up but it did not arise when I was present.