Taoiseach tackles allegation of economic treason

ECONOMIC treason was the charge thrown at Taoiseach Brian Cowen by the opposition who said he only saved Anglo Irish Bank to protect friends of Fianna Fáil.

In a robust defence, Mr Cowen told Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore he would never question the patriotism of fellow TDs. And he believed it was a political game to suggest his actions were influenced by property developers.

“I will not be accused, frankly, of seeking to cause treason to my country. I find that beyond the pale.

“Be under no illusions about the motivations that moved me... they are the very same laudable ones that you [Mr Gilmore] would have if you were in my position,” he said.

Mr Gilmore had questioned why the Taoiseach had not published the advice he got in September 2008, which supposedly showed he had no option but to apply the guarantee to all aspects of Anglo’s business.

He said Fianna Fáil had acted to protect the fortunes of its property sector supporters by ensuring all Anglo’s creditors were covered.

“I believe, Taoiseach, that you and the Government made that decision in September of 2008, not in the best economic interests of the nation, but in the best personal interests for those vested interests who I believe the Government was trying to protect on that occasion.

“I believe, Taoiseach, that that decision was made to save the skins of individuals, some of whom are connected to Fianna Fáil whose property interests and whose prosperity was bound up with the fortunes of Anglo,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said, if his beliefs were correct, Mr Cowen was guilty of betraying Ireland. “If my belief is correct, and I have not been convinced to the contrary, then that decision was an act of economic treason.”

This curt exchange during Leaders’ Questions followed a similarly tetchy over-and-back with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. He had asked the Taoiseach to account for his presence at a private dinner on April 24, 2008, with the board of Anglo. This was arranged by Mr Cowen’s long-time friend Fintan Drury.

Mr Kenny said the Taoiseach’s attempt to downplay the event was akin to Bertie Ahern’s brushing off of his dig-out dinner in Manchester.

“You say the meeting you had in your capacity as minister for finance had no relevance to this situation. That is the very same as your predecessor said when he addressed a meeting in Manchester as a citizen as distinct from being a minister.

“My charge, Taoiseach, is not against Brian Cowen citizen. It is against you in your capacity as minister for finance. And you attended a private dinner organised by a person who was then a member of the board of Anglo who was dealing with risk competition in Anglo.”

Mr Kenny said, at the time of this meeting, Mr Cowen would have known about the problems in the wider economy and the exposure of billionaire Sean Quinn.

Mr Cowen hit back, saying he treated Mr Kenny’s attempts to personalise the debate with contempt.

“I do not accept for one moment this idea that Brian Cowen is personally responsible for the collapse of the banking system in Ireland,” he said.

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