Prime Minister’s golf and dinner with Ireland’s untouchable ---- Sean FitzPatrick secret meeting last straw for many party faithful

In the end it may come down to a round of golf with an untouchable if Brian Cowen is replaced as Ireland’s leader over the next week.

Despite emerging from a party meeting with his job still intact, the circle is closing on Cowen's leadership

Brian Cowen had weathered every storm imaginable in his tenure as Prime Minster, the country going broke, IMF/EU intervention, dreadfully harsh budgets.

He saw his government’s popularity collapse to the point where his party , which won 44 per cent of the vote last time might have to settle for 14 per cent this time.

Even the weather seemed to conspire with the two coldest winters for decades and then there was the volcanic ash cloud that shut down Irish airspace for weeks.

But when he was directly linked to Sean Fitzpatrick, the former head of Anglo Irish Bank which collapsed leaving the Irish taxpayer with a $50 billion bill, he was suddenly very vulnerable.

The meeting took place over a golf game and dinner at a fancy country club outside Dublin in July 2008.

Fitzpatrick revealed the meeting in an interview for a new book and it linked Cowen fatally to the man considered the poster boy for Ireland’s plunge into darkness.

It subsequently transpired the two men had dinner with a few others immediately afterwards.

At the time Anglo was coming apart at the seams and the Celtic Tiger was gasping.

Yet Cowen, implausibly, stated that he and FitzPatrick never discussed the bank or the need for the subsequent bailout either on the golf course or at the subesquent dinner.

It sounded a little like asking Mrs Lincoln how she liked the play.

When the news of the contact broke some despairing Fianna Fail members saw it as the final insult, the moment when Cowen’s greatest asset, his integrity and honesty suddenly came under fire.

The Irish taxpayer is footing the $50 billion dollar Anglo bill, by far the largest of the massive bank debts they have to subsume.

The bailout of Anglo was deeply resented from the beginning with many experts believing the government would have been better to let it go to the wall.

Did the cozy golf game and dinner have anything to do with the agreement to bailout? No one knows for sure but the suspicion had taken hold that Cowen was not telling the whole truth.

That was the last prop holding him up, his reputation as decent and honorable with no hint of skullduggery in his dealings.

When that fell his demise became very possible despite his Houdini act at his party meeting on Thursday

It is not how he would want to go, a man who inherited much of the mess from his predecessor Bertie Ahern.

But nonetheless it may become inevitable.

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