Economist says he had no role in Anglo decisions

A senior economist who attended the infamous Brian Cowen-Anglo golf outing and was the only expert the then taoiseach called on the night of the guarantee has insisted he had no role in decisions about the firm.

Former Central Bank director Alan Gray repeatedly rejected suggestions his connections to key government personnel and the bank were questionable at a banking inquiry meeting last night.

While Mr Gray does not have a high public profile, previous evidence shows he was involved in key moments for the economy in 2008.

In July, Mr Cowen confirmed Mr Gray attended a golf outing at Druid’s Glen with the then taoiseach, then Anglo chairman Seán FitzPatrick, chief executive David Drumm, director Gary McGann, and non-executive director Fintan Drury on July 28, 2008 to discuss the economic crisis.

Mr Gray also met with Mr Fitzpatrick and Mr Drumm hours before th bank guarantee before later being the only external expert called on by Mr Cowen.

In addition, ex-Department of Finance secretary general Kevin Cardiff has previously confirmed Mr Gray asked him for some form of bank action in summer 2008.

However, responding to the issues yesterday, the economist said nothing untoward took place.

While admitting it was with hindsight a “mistake” to attend the Druid’s Glen meeting and an early discussion about economic issues that morning at Mr Drury’s home, Mr Gray mirrored others who attended by insisting the problems with Anglo were never discussed.

He told Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan the banking sector was “not discussed at any time” by the four bankers and Mr Cowen. Mr Gray said he only met the group “to outline what was happening in the economy” — a line he repeated when asked by Fianna Fáil senator Marc MacSharry about the “balance of probability” and if he believed the bankers and Mr Cowen talked about “football or whatever”.

The economist also said while it may seem unusual for him to write to Mr Cardiff in the summer of 2008 suggesting action to address bank issues, he told inquiry chair Ciaran Lynch it was “appropriate” given the growing crisis.

Asked if Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Drumm “just turned up at your door” hours before the guarantee, Mr Gray said he could not “speculate” on their reasons, that they did not ask him to do anything and that “I did not ask for the meeting”.

He said he has given independent expert advice to Irish and foreign politicians for years, including ex-Fine Gael taoiseach Garrett FitzGerald.

While he confirmed Mr Cowen called him on guarantee night before overruling then finance minister Brian Lenihan to seek the guarantee, Mr Gray said he told him he was not initially in favour of the plan but concluded it was the “sensible option of the terrible options available”.

At a later meeting, ex-Anglo head of lending Tom Browne said when he left in November 2007, he had done “a good job”.

Mr Browne defended the €3.75m he received on stepping down and said Anglo had measures to ensure customer loan repayment.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the protections “sound great”, before noting the only downside is “your bank cost the country €35bn”.

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