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Cowen and I don't meet much, people might think we're up to no good - Fintan Drury

Drury – a longtime friend of the former FF Taoiseach and a non-exec director of Anglo – has been talking to the Banking Inquiry.

Updated at 3.45pm

FINTAN DRURY, A former Anglo Irish Bank non-executive director and longtime friend of former Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Brian Cowen, is being questioned by the Banking Inquiry this afternoon, after hours of delays.

His session was pushed back this morning, as more legal advice was sought on evidence provided by former Anglo CEO David Drumm.

As part of his opening statement, Drury gave detailed accounts of two much-talked-about social interactions between Cowen and Anglo bosses in the months leading up to the banking crash.

He also spoke about a “disinterest” in the political sector or in lobbying of any kind among board members, in the years leading up to the banking crash.

His friendship with Brian Cowen had become constrained in recent years, he later told the members – saying that if they were to arrange to meet socially in public, people might think they were up to “no good”.

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The golf trip 

Earlier this month, Cowen told the TDs and senators that the bank’s business was not discussed during a golf trip with then-Anglo chairman Seán Fitzpatrick, arranged by Drury.

Addressing the committee this morning, Drury said that “as a sometime sceptic myself” he understood why people may have raised questions over the outing to Druid’s Glen in Wicklow, in July 2008.

“Perhaps we could have discussed those issues?” he said.

“But to what end?”

As a close friend of Cowen – why would he have arranged such a public event, if he had wanted to lobby the then-Taoiseach, he asked.

Speculation that the outing was part of some kind of conspiracy was not credible, he insisted.

Anglo Court Cases Seán Fitzpatrick Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Cowen, in his testimony, said he contacted Drury about setting up a meeting to discuss the economy before he went on holidays during the Dáil recess, recalling telling him: “I haven’t had a break in a long time”.

Drury suggested an “informal get-together” with Fitzpatrick, which Cowen told the committee he agreed to.

The trip was raised several times during this afternoon’s session, with Drury telling chairman Ciarán Lynch he had been the organiser of the day out. Cowen was the “sponsor” he said, in that it was for his benefit.

Asked by Lynch who had paid the bill, he replied (after a short pause), ”I don’t know”.

“I certainly didn’t.”

Drury – who has previously served as chairman of Paddy Power, and now heads up sports agency Platinum One – said he never discussed business in any detail with Cowen, for corporate confidentiality reasons.

(The whole thing’s being streamed online here.)

banking The session was beset with delays earlier. Source: Oireachtas

The dinner

More wrangling over Drumm’s submission to the inquiry delayed this morning’s session with Drury – as the committee sought further advice from their own legal team.

Leaked reports from that submission said Cowen was lobbied by Anglo board members at a dinner with the bank’s board, in April of 2008.

Cowen, in his evidence, told the committee it was purely a social event, and that no business was discussed. And speaking today, Drury agreed with that version of events.

While economic matters were discussed generally, the then-finance minister did not discuss Anglo’s business, he said.

It was not “a special set-piece event,” he told the panel.

Such events – board lunches or dinners – happened around twice a year, and had been happening for years before he joined the board, Drury said. Politicians of “various persuasions” had attended over the years.

The dinner was “completely unremarkable” he added.

Cowen spoke to a number of board members, asking them to set out their thoughts on areas relating to their expertise, their views on the Irish economy and – depending on their job title – the global economy. 

Under questioning from Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, he confirmed that an executive had made an address to the gathering, before dinner was served.

However, throughout the event he said he did not believe there was discussion of any issue of “material interest” to the Banking Inquiry.

drury2 Source: Oireachtas

Cowen friendship

Asked about his friendship with the former Taoiseach, and how often the pair spoke these days, Drury said they no longer met regularly.

Constraints had been placed on their friendship in the wake of Anglo’s collapse, amid speculation about contact between the pair in the run-up to the bank’s demise.

“If I met Brian Cowen for a pint or we went to a match together, there is a percentage of people who would think we were up to no good,” he said.

People might speculate about what they were talking about, he added – saying that there was an element of ”you just can’t win”.

cowen Brian Cowen Source: Oireachtas

Anglo ‘disinterested’

Asked about the bank’s links with politics generally, he said he had never been involved with any organisation that was less interested in engaging with the sector.

“I never came across an institution that was less interested in politics and less interested in lobbying and less interested in engaging with the body politic,” he told the members.

When it came to Sean Fitzpatrick the “level of disinterest was acute”.

ciaran Committe chairman Ciarán Lynch Source: Oireachtas

Why the delays?

The committee agreed yesterday it would accept the direction of the DPP and hold off on publishing Drumm’s written statement.

More advice was sought this morning – and in a statement released shortly after 10am the committee confirmed it had agreed to suspend the publication of Drumm’s evidence, pending more discussions with the DPP.

There had been concerns that the inadmissibility of Drumm’s statement could cause problems for members asking questions today – as it can’t be referred to.

It’s understood the further delays to Drury’s appearance related to this issue, as legal clarification was sought.

As the delays continued earlier, Independent TD Shane Ross – who’s not a member of the panel – speculated about Drumm’s possible reaction to today’s events:

dr

Yesterday, there was said to be “anger and frustration” among the committee members at the DPP’s advice – after it was confirmed the statement couldn’t be published.

A source told TheJournal.ie that the frustration was due to the “eleventh hour” nature of the concern being raised. Earlier this week, the DPP said that Drumm would not be allowed to make a video statement to the inquiry.

Meanwhile, sessions scheduled for this afternoon with former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes and Mike Aynsley, the former Anglo/IBRC CEO, are still set to go ahead.

More: David Drumm’s statement to the Banking Inquiry will NOT be published – yet

Yesterday: Tired performances all round as David Drumm controversy casts shadow over Banking Inquiry

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