FG not as close to developers as FF, Taoiseach tells banking inquiry

Enda Kenny denies conversation with Anglo Irish chief financial officer was about the bank

 Enda Kenny at the Oireachtas banking inquiry: his party had ‘very different economic model’ from Fianna Fáil’s

Enda Kenny at the Oireachtas banking inquiry: his party had ‘very different economic model’ from Fianna Fáil’s

 

Fine Gael was not as close to property developers as Fianna Fáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Oireachtas banking inquiry.

Mr Kenny was being questioned about his party’s golf classics, which were attended by a number of high-profile developers. Socialist TD Joe Higgins said the events raised thousands of euro in donations from people in property, bankers and the racing industry.

He asked if this proved Fine Gael was “as close to the property industry and developers as Fianna Fáil allegedly was”.

Mr Kenny said: “Certainly not. I don’t know the extent of what Fianna Fáil representatives may have accepted from developers or whatever. I’d remind you that the Fine Gael party was an opposition party, struggling in opposition, the vast majority of our fundraising came from our national draw and that anything else was strictly in accordance with the Sipo [Standards in Public Office] regulations.

“Any group or any individual who would have met with, from a Fine Gael point of view, that had no bearing on any policy adopted by our political party.”

The Taoiseach said running a political party cost a considerable sum of money and a golf classic was a social occasion.

“People are entitled to support who they wish, but let me assure you that insofar as the Fine Gael party was concerned, the relationships that you referred to did not apply and anybody who participated in a golf match or whatever, I’m not sure how they played,” he said.

The Taoiseach was questioned about his relationship with developers and whether he had ever sought hospitality from them. Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry asked him if he had ever availed of transportation from a property developer by air or by car.

Mr Kenny replied: “Of course, in my time as opposition leader, we would have hired transport, air transport occasionally, to get from one part of the country to the other. I have never gone around asking developers, saying: ‘Would you give me a lift here, there or everywhere?’

“I’ve always tended to have my own transport, and like, I can be clear on this, I have never sought hospitality or transport from a developer for that purpose.

“If I say to you, ‘I travelled 200 yards in a car with a developer’, what do you mean by that? He’s a contractor who builds five houses or 200 houses or 5,000 houses or whatever. The question is ridiculous.”

Mr Kenny was also questioned about a conversation he had with Anglo Irish Bank chief financial officer Matt Moran a month after the bank guarantee. He said he was asked to make the phone call by Mr Moran’s brother and said it was not a conversation about Anglo.

He said: “No, it was never my business to be in contact with senior members of banks in the first place. I made the call because I was asked to do it by his brother, that he had wanted to say something to me. I reject that assertion.”

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said media reports had claimed Mr Kenny and Mr Moran spoke on November 17th and 18th, 2008, and discussed rumours about the bank’s future. The Taoiseach denied he had told Mr Moran anything about the institution or Fine Gael policy.

Mr Kenny also said Fine Gael had challenged Fianna Fáil-led governments about the lack of regulation in the banks and the economic route they chose.

Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said Fine Gael’s election manifesto in 2007 called for a €17 billion increase in expenditure and a €3.4 billion rise in capital expenditure. This was very similar to the €23 billion the then Fianna Fáil-led government had proposed.

The Taoiseach said the manifesto spoke for itself, but his party’s proposals were vastly different from Fianna Fáil’s.

“Fine Gael had a very different economic model than Fianna Fáil and, in accepting the predictions or the projections from ESRI and from the Department of Finance, we understood that you couldn’t achieve those rates without having a competitive, focused, regulated, scrutinised and accountable economic system.”

Mr Kenny said international factors played a role in the crash but “the lion’s share” was due to homegrown mistakes.