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Tuesday 14 August 2018

Andrew Lynch: The Golden Circle round of golf which channelled our FF rage

It all started with a game of golf. When Brian Cowen teed off at the luxurious Druids Glen resort in July 2008, he must have been looking forward to a relaxing afternoon away from the pressures of office. In fact, he was sowing the seeds of destruction -- not just for himself, but for an entire Fianna Fail party.

Everyone in FF knew the election would be bad. However, it didn't have to be this bad.



FIGHT

The result was made even worse by the chaotic circumstances in which Cowen's government broke up -- and that can be directly traced back to his golf outing with a certain banker by the name of Sean FitzPatrick.

It might seem hard to believe now, but at the beginning of the year Cowen appeared to have plenty of fight left in him. The Taoiseach had given a series of storming media interviews just before Christmas, proving that he could still be a formidable politician when he really tried.

There was speculation that the election could be delayed until April or even longer, with one FF TD explaining, "I like to campaign with the sun on my back." Then, on January 9, the roof fell in.

Ever since the scandal of Sean FitzPatrick's secret personal loans from Anglo Irish Bank had been exposed, he'd kept a suspiciously low profile. Now the disgraced banker broke his silence in a series of lengthy interviews for a new book called The FitzPatrick Tapes.

He couldn't bring himself to say the word 'sorry' -- but he did reveal both a golf game and a phone conversation with Cowen in mid-2008 that had remained secret.

This was crucial for one simple reason. The contacts had taken place just a few weeks before Anglo and other banks put a gun to Cowen's head and demanded that he bail them out with public money. Was it possible that Seanie was trying to secure funds from the National Treasury Management Agency in order to cover his tracks -- or that Anglo was included in the notorious banking guarantee because of the Taoiseach's contact with board members?

Just to make things even murkier, the golf outing had been arranged and attended by Cowen's close friend Fintan Drury -- who also just happened to be a former Anglo director himself.

After two days of damaging silence, Cowen furiously denied these allegations in the Dail.



DINNER

As his own TDs looked away in embarrassment, the Taoiseach insisted that he and Seanie had spent the day socialising together without banks ever coming up as a topic of conversation.

Under sustained questioning, he then let slip one more damaging piece of information -- another director of Anglo and a Central Bank economist had also joined him for dinner after the golf game.

After that, events moved very quickly. Cowen self-destructed by trying to appoint six new cabinet ministers and was forced to resign.

Now Brian Cowen can play as much golf he wants -- and this time, there are over 50 ex-FF TDs free to join him.

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