Brian Cowen got Anglo email same day as social event

Message listed bank’s options just before former minister dined with Anglo officials

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen said the dinner with Anglo Irish Bank employees was a social occasion and the bank’s difficulties were not discussed. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen said the dinner with Anglo Irish Bank employees was a social occasion and the bank’s difficulties were not discussed. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The Department of Finance discussed methods of addressing financial difficulties at Anglo Irish Bank on the same day in 2008 that then minister for finance Brian Cowen met Anglo officials at a social function.

Mr Cowen was copied into emails from departmental officials hours before he attended a board dinner at the bank’s headquarters at St Stephen’s Green on April 28th, 2008.

The Irish Times understands the email outlined several possibilities for the future of the bank. It was sent between department officials, with Mr Cowen included in the exchange.

There was no direction given in the correspondence, which instead outlined a list of options available to the State if Anglo were to face further difficulties.

The disclosure comes as Mr Cowen prepares for a second day of testimony at the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry, where he will discuss action taken during his tenure as taoiseach.

Attendance questioned

He said the dinner with Anglo employees including David Drumm and Seán FitzPatrick was a social occasion and that the troubles at the bank were not discussed.

Mr Cowen told the inquiry he had been invited by his friend and Anglo non-executive director Fintan Drury, whom he had known since they attended University College Dublin together.

“It was informal. There was no big speeches really. I didn’t go with any brief or guide or didn’t bring any papers or anything like that,” he said. “It was sort of a courtesy thing that I had never met them during all the time I was minister [for finance] and they just felt it wouldn’t be right if I hadn’t . . . before I left office.”

Issues not discussed

The former Fianna Fáil leader will return to the inquiry on Wednesday to discuss his time as taoiseach.

He is expected to discuss his decision to introduce the blanket bank guarantee and whether he overruled his minister for finance Brian Lenihan on the night.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Niall Collins said Mr Cowen had given a very competent performance before the inquiry. He said he had dealt with all the issues openly during his tenure as minister and expected the same on Wednesday.

Mr Collins said: “Certainly the comment that I have received from the public when we’re in our constituencies or out and about is that people are beginning to understand better and better each day, more and more as the banking inquiry goes on, and particularly when they look at what’s happening in Greece . . .

“I think Brian Cowen has given a fairly good insight into why he took certain decisions as minister for finance and certainly some of the policies that he pursued at that point in time.”