‘Horrifying’ drinking went on at FF meeting

A barman on duty at the Fianna Fáil conference which led to Brian Cowen’s infamous “Garglegate” interview has told of the “horrifying” level of drinking he witnessed at it.

In an article in the latest edition of Hot Press magazine, the barman, Ivan Murray, recounts his memories of senior politicians getting “royally tanked” at the 2010 conference.

“As a mere member of the proletariat, doing his job ladling out the drink, it was genuinely horrifying to witness the men and women who were at that moment considered to be the cream of our political classes getting — with honourable exceptions it has to be said — royally tanked to the extent that dignity and good sense went completely out the window in the middle of the biggest crisis this country has faced since the Great Famine.”

The two-day parliamentary party conference at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway began on Monday, Sept 13, 2010, a time when the economic crisis was deepening.

That night, the traditional dinner was held and the socialising continued into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Later that morning, Mr Cowen appeared on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme for a pre-scheduled interview. However, controversy erupted after suggestions that he had been hungover on air, leading to the affair being dubbed “Garglegate”.

In the Hot Press article, Mr Murray writes of arriving for work on Sept 13 “totally unprepared for the scenes that unfurled” before him.

He mentions how, when taking his place behind the bar prior to the dinner, he was tasked with serving a group of seven or eight TDs “who were ordering rounds of porter to beat the band”.

There was a tab running, and the “one-upmanship of calling rounds that you didn’t actually have to pay for continued unabated, much to the amusement of the assembled boyos”.

He tells of how Mr Cowen appeared at the bar and joined in the drinking for a couple of hours during which he was “approached by groups of two or three supplicants at a time, all desperate to ingratiate themselves before slinking off for more drinks”.

The politicians then switched to the function room for the dinner, before returning to the bar later in the night.

Mr Murray says he personally continued to serve Mr Cowen and several of his associates “copious amounts of alcohol all evening and into the early hours of the next morning”.

“The drinking was of a magnitude that might, in different circumstances, be described as legendary.”

As for the Morning Ireland interview and the allegations that Mr Cowen had been hungover, Mr Murray writes: “All I can say is that if I had consumed as much as the man, then I’d certa-inly still have been feeling the effects — in a big way.”

Mr Cowen did not return a call seeking comment last night. Fianna Fáil declined to comment.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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