“This was “effectively a libel”, declared Dermot Ahern, speaking at the opening of a new petrol station.”

Taoiseach Brian Cowen is off to Brussels today.  He could do with a break…  His party colleagues have been rushing the microphones to congratulate him on his “manly” apology after a somewhat under-par performance in a pre-breakfast radio interview on Tuesday – you can hear that in its full glory here [RealPlayer file].

The iol report has an account of the “confluence of events” responsible…

Witnesses at the get-together in Galway said Mr Cowen was among scores of party members, including senior Government ministers, in the hotel bar until the early hours of the morning.

Renowned as a great mimic, he entertained colleagues with impressions of Irish golfers Philip Walton and Des Smyth as well legendary sports broadcaster Micheal O Muircheartaigh.

Several Fianna Fáil members took their turn in a traditional sing-song which started after midnight.

Mr Cowen sang the ballad ‘Lakes of Ponchartrain’, about an Irish immigrant who falls in love with a Louisiana Creole woman but is spurned because she is promised to a sailor.

Others present at The Blazers bar in the Ardilaun Hotel said the Taoiseach was drinking lager and left at about 3.30am.

His performance on the radio interview several hours later, at about 8.50am, sparked a furore with opposition politicians who alleged it raised concerns over his ability to lead the country.

As ever, for a sober assessment we turn to Miriam Lord in the Irish Times

People are annoyed because he sounded very hung-over on Morning Ireland and they didn’t like what they heard. When it emerged he had been socialising at his party’s annual think-in until 3.30 in the morning – drinking, smoking and singing – he was in big trouble.

For sure, Brian Cowen wasn’t the only one in the bar in those convivial early hours.

But he was the only one there who is running an unhappy country in the middle of a financial calamity.

Worried citizens want a leader who is cool of head, calm in a crisis and completely on top of his game.

Instead, they get Brian. Who went on the rip on Monday night and got caught.

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  • Mickel

    I’ve just listened to the whole thing and it doesnt sound as bad as everyone was making out. Sure he does sound a bit raspy but from the way this incident is being protrayed I thought he would be vomiting down the mike!

    The whole story is a bit of a storm in a tea cup.

    The whole issue was kicked up by opposition TDs

  • Mickel

    …..I’ve also just realised from re-reading the headline; “Dermot Ahern, speaking at the opening of a new petrol station.”

    The opening of a new petrol station!!! what!

    Thats ridiculous, whats next Dermot Ahern making comments from the opening of a new video shop?

  • pablo

    I Know, wait til next year when the price of oil goes up, it will be Dermot Ahern speaking at the closure of same petrol station

  • pablo

    I would say Biffo is delighted to be away out of it, the big stick is stil swinging for him around the southern media and politico groups

  • Odhran Moses

    He sounded grand to me.
    He’s obliged to put on his best face at these party get togethers and have a good drink anyway.
    My instinct is that this will backfire on the Blueshirts and Labour.
    I despise the Soldiers of Destiny as much as anyone but I expect the public will be sympathetic to Cowen after the witchhunt.
    Drinking to 3.30am at a party conference. Imagine.
    Jim McDaid drove up a motorway the wrong way stocious, Frank Fahey flogged the Corrib gasfields and Bertie was up to his neck in financial contortions but they all got back in.
    As did Deputy Stagg after his adventures in the Phoenix Park.
    If the electorate kick them out it’ll be because of the taxpayers being sold out to salvage property, investors and the financial sector.
    It won’t be because of this ridiculous sententiousness from the likes of Coveney.
    Fine Gael and Labour will need to be on their best behaviour – in terms of personal conduct – for the foreseeable future, into the bargain.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Alas Dermot Ahern is right. Allowing for hyperbole , it was a bit of character assassination by Dublin 4 and their allies.
    Lets face it Cowen is everything they hate…hes not even from Dublin for Gods sake…………he’s Biffo (the Big Ignorant F***er from Offaly).
    In their view sending him off to represent us (“them”) in Brussels is a bit like sending Fathers Ted and Dougal to the Eurovision Song Contest.
    Sheesh they think ….it would be better to send Dustin the Turkey….and where exactly is Offaly anyway?

    I cant imagine anything worse than the post convention Fianna Fáil traditional boozy sing a long. Except possibly the high stakes boozy post Conference poker game at an SDLP Convention…….or a post convention DUP prayer meeting.
    Irish politicians are a very hands on bunch of politicians. It does not take that many votes to gain a quota….or lose one. Attending a funeral in Mountmellick or Clara is an important thing for a Laois-Offaly TD…or sending a Mass Card…. or getting a letter from a constituent that says my “daughter is going up to UCD on Mondays and coming back on Friday……can you give her a lift?”

    Dermot Ahern opening a petrol station might well surprise a “commmenter”. If it was in his constituency in Louth, I would not be surprised. All Politics is local.
    So….its generally agreed that Biffo wasnt drunk…..but the story went round the world “Irish Prime Minister Not Drunk”.
    Tabloid journalism at its worst.
    Anne Diamond who occupied that GMTV sofa before our own Christine ……..this kinda journalism was her forte. Waving a tabloid she ridiculed tabloid journalism……before turning to Rolling Stone Bill Wyman and inviting him to agree that it was horrible to suggest that he liked barely legal women.
    Yes well.
    Hmmm….. “When did you last beat your wife?” ……..the damage is out there……Biffo behaved likea big ignorant F***er from Offaly”..dammit he was sociable and not drunk.
    You wouldnt find responsible people like Miriam Lord….drinking smoking and sing songing.
    Much more responsible to report it.
    Hands up if you know an alcoholic journalist?

  • Robo

    So it looks like FF winning the next election in the south again then? Seriously, if this is the best the oppo can come up with they have no chance. I listened to the interview on YouTube. Yes, he was evasive (but he is a politician) his diction wasn’t great (but few of us are as good as Brian Sewell). FG & Labour clearly have no idea how to oppose the southern govt.

  • Mickel

    I think your right, this was a stunt as far as I’m concerned. I think the Irish pubic arent as stupid as FG and Labour would have hoped to swallow the ‘he aint fit to lead’ nonsense.

    I have no love for the man but if this is all they can sling at FF at this stage then its embarassing for them.

  • I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Cowen had been out late the night before a scheduled interview and it affected his performance the next morning. He (and his advisers) should certainly have anticipated this. Coveney’s original tweet was fair comment. Does this event in itself mean Cowen is unfit for office? Of course not – there are plenty of better reasons after all. But what it has done is provided an opportunity for the people to vent against what remains the most unpopular government in the history of the state. Short of an election, it’s all they can do.

    I do feel a small twinge of sympathy for Cowen – he has got to the point in his political career where nothing he does is appreciated and every minor slip pounced upon. But then it is a position largely of his own making.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think the danger for “cosmopolitan/West Briton/blueshirt/Dublin 4/ Official IRA never existed/journalist” Ireland is that they overplay their hand.

    There are a lot of Biffos out there and they all have a vote. And laughing AT the plain people of Ireland would be a step too far for an arrogant media, convinced of its own virtue.

    Journalists dont seem to get that they are always at the bottom of opinion polls which measure trustworthiness.

  • Rory Carr

    “People are annoyed because he sounded very hung-over on Morning Ireland and they didn’t like what they heard. When it emerged he had been socialising at his party’s annual think-in until 3.30 in the morning – drinking, smoking and singing – he was in big trouble.” proclaims the saintly Miriam Lord. And herself a journalist to boot! Wonders never cease.

    But, we might ask, where does this woman dwell? God be with the days when any politican who didn’t have a reputation for spending nights carousing and drinking and smoking with the party hoi-poloi wouldn’t have had a look-in.

    Of course there was always Oliver Flanagan but, I know Ireland has changed in recent decades, but hardly so much that it wants a bunch of Oliver Flanagan clones running the show.

  • Watcher

    Absolute non-story and I cannot believe the furore it has caused.

    It doesn’t too bad an interview – many of the so called politicians in the North would who can barely string a sentence together in the cold light of day would be delighted with the interview.

  • Munsterview

    Not forgetting Donegan ‘ Tundering F***ing disgrace remark that caused one of the finest, learned and cultured scholar, gentlemen that graced the Office Of President to resign to protect the dignity of the office, having being left with no option when Cosgrave’s Cabinet decided to back a drunk colleague and to hell with the consequences!

    And then there is the story of Cooney who insisted in stopping his state car, getting out and urinating in the public square to show his contempt for the natives of a particular town noted for its lack of electoral support for Fine Gael !

  • Alias

    “…what an uninspiring interview by Taoiseach this morning. He sounded half way between drunk and hungover and totally disinterested…”

    Cowen made the story by dismissing an accurate observation by Coveney as “a new low in Irish politics.” Biffo being a drama queen again. There were plenty of ‘lows’ in Irish politics during Biffo’s term in office, but Coveney telling it like he saw it wasn’t one of them.

    Biffo, of course, had to back pedal from his diva-esque denial of his drunkeness and pseudo outrage at the “new low” after the media exposed his booze-up and clownish antics in the hotel bar…

    So what was the new low? A politician telling the truth about another politician? A politician misleading the nation about his own drunken antics? A politician casting an improper slur on another politician by claiming that he brought Irish politics to a new low? A politician who failed to apologise to another politician after he admitted to the nation that that other politician was simply telling the truth and didn’t therefore actually bring Irish politics to a new low by telling the truth as he had previously claimed?

  • Munsterview

    In defense of Olliver J, I became friends with him and he was a gentleman. Any time I publicly encountered Olliver after out first meeting, he always went out of his way to come up, shake hands and have a few words at a time all in Sinn Fein were publicly shunned by even Fianna Fail.

    Olliver was also an astute politician, he had the capacity to listen and he was never patronizing. When he got the ‘half car’ he was still the same Olliver. Politics would have been a better place if there had been more like him!

  • Munsterview

    Nice one…..you ticked off all the boxes on this one as far as the agendas go ! Whatever of Brians politics who and what he is will always be a matter of disdain for Dublin 4 …….. and the feeling is quite mutual !

    Cant see the same thing happening with Richard Bruton at a conference…… which is why Richard Bruton is where he is in Irish politics…..and Brian Cowen likewise !

    It was however very bad PR handling to give go live ‘ the morning after the night before’ and his Pr should be shot! Brian also showed bad judgement by doing so. There was nothing wrong with what he did the night before but a hell of al lot with what he did in the morning!

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well indeed…in the 1960s one of the nations leading politicians was the talk of the taxi drivers for his womanising.
    Of course the woman with whom he was carousing was er….a journalist.
    I believe she eventually wrote a kiss and tell memoir and was much criticised in journalistic circles for so doing.

    Still “Taoiseach NOT drunk” is a very odd story.
    And if we all had a pound for every political/journalistic leg over (north and south) we would be comfortable if not exactly rich. I have a friend who works in a hotel in……..oops Ive said too much.

  • Is amazed that so many in the Irish political opposition seem to have taken the Pioneer pledge.

  • He did sound rough, and tired, which he, apparently was. It’s worth a smile and a chance to reflect that it’s good to know politicians are just like the rest of us and perhaps it’s good for them to know that too.

  • Alias

    Most of them enjoy a drink but none of them – unlike Biffo Yeltsin – lack the judgement that instructs them not to go onto a national radio show while still intoxicated, so the latter is the issue here and not the former.

  • old school

    Storm in a teacup indeed.
    I remember seeing Norman Tebbit coming out of a Tory shindig in the early hours once. He looked a bit “groggy” to say the least.

  • Pete Baker

    “the latter is the issue here and not the former”

    Indeed Alias.

    We seem to have increasing numbers of commenters displaying comprehension difficulties – not just on this post.

    Of course, it can be easier to dismiss certain points if you appear to fail to understand them.

  • Anyone remember George Brown? just one of a long list of parliamentarians who indulged…I’m not even looking at the Dail, nor will I be checking any Green Party members tweets…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Im afraid I do.
    Oh Alan Clark and Churchill were also often as tired and emotional as…..newts

  • Ah but the burning question of the day is: did any or all of them lack judgement, or were the media ‘kinder’ then…

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    “BIFFO”…as acronyms go isnt really that good.
    There should be one for mouthy Dublin 4 types.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The Media was much more differential then. Or too pissed themselves to notice. One of the great figures of BBC prided himself on how many groupies he could get at Conferences. Apparently Tory Conferences were more more fertile territory.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Actually Ive thought of JUGS as an acronym for female persons in the Media. Hope it catches on.

  • FJH

    Yes but they could be independent when they chose and everyone knew the old Fleet Street hacks had form. Today the MSM is not only holier than thou they also seem so, no other word for it, tame.

  • Munsterview


    “……..So it looks like FF winning the next election in the south again then?….”

    They have every intention in doing just that, all it takes is money for a big spend ! Get the cranes swinging ‘ just to finish projects of course, (nothing as vulgar as developing of course),and the heavy machine plant working on public infrastructure with roads and schools building restarted up and down the country.

    We are not as far up the S creek without a paddle as some would have us believe !

    Fianna Failure have a stroke or two to pull yet…… there is still a few bob to be had and a special asset or two left to sell to sell.

    Of course it will mean undoing everything Martin Walton and his circle planned, and what Mick implemented, but what the hell, it is all about power these days, principles as, ‘Alias’ would point out , went west anyway with the resending of the claim on National territory so a financial sovereignty sale is now problem.

    So prepare for a lot of those blue and white horizontal flags flying in Dublin. Oh yes, good news for West of the Bann…… a few bob coming your way up there too by all accounts !

  • Pete Baker


    As has already been pointed out above.

    The issue is not Brian Cowen having a drink, even to excess.

    It’s the hungover/drunken interview on RTÉ Radio the next morning.

    Even then it might not have been an issue if he, and Fianna Fail, had not taken exception to a Fine Gael TD commenting on it on Twitter.

  • Pete Baker

    And as has been pointed out he is not the first, and will almost certainly not be the last.

    I have heard it said that Winnie was half cut through the 2nd WW. George Brown took a dive into the gutter and the recalcitrant press printed the picture. Alan Clarke had an understanding wife, and so on.

    As I understand it the interview was prearranged, and though I agree BC sounded a bit the worse for wear I don’t think he sounded drunk. He made a mistake and looking at the economy I don’t think a poor interview was his biggest mistake it is just the only laughable one.

    Perhaps you are right though, nothing destroys a politicians careers as effectively as the laughter of enemies.

  • Pete Baker


    Re-read my previous comment.

    What is it with the general failure of comprehension in our comments zone?

  • Munsterview



    I remember on one such occasion, I had lunch meeting in Jurys Dublin, the former government minister I was with, pointed out and named twenty top civil servants there……. all were married……..but all the women they were with were mistresses.

    There was also a sprinkling of politicians there, also with mistresses ( leg overs implied unpremidated spontanity ) trying to emulate Charlie and at that time in the late seventies a mistress was as necessary as a merks for a serious politician to show that they arrived.

    There was total social acceptance in Dublin 4 for it, so Continental dont you know !

    Incidently in the early seventies I also got many a lecture and meeting heckel from serious women libbers and their female parthners. All of these ladies came from well heeled financial backgrounds. Female parthners long abandoned of course………all happily married these days…….. well married anyway !

    One or two female TD very silent these days on womens lib issue……….I wonder why ?

    Keep a close eye on the deep South……Simon crossed a line and I would be very surprized indeed if he is not pushed well back over that line and we may all get a public look at what is on the other side of that line !

    Time for a cup of tea I think !

  • Pete Baker

    I read your post and your comment. thank you. I also understood it, all of it.

    Every politician who has ever been caught with his, metaphorical, pants down has tried to bluster his way out of it. there is nothing new in that, and to be fair it has often worked. It didn’t this time because the vultures have been circling BC and none know better than they when a beast is wounded.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I know I know.
    Its the commenters fault for not limiting the boundaries of our comprehension.
    The Medias role in making the Taoiseach of their own nation a cartoonish and ridiculous version of his real self and by extension lampooning those of a different cultural background to their cosmopolitan selves is in fact an issue.

    Did I mention an unelected Overclass?
    If not..I do now.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Well indeed..no politician can survive Ridicule. It was Spittin Image wot dun it for her.
    The image of Thatcher was more effective in turning people against her … than the real one.
    Likewise the “Biffo” image.
    What would be its effect?
    Will the full frontal assult of the Media be more effective than an ineffective and divided Parliamentary Opposition?
    Or will it be counter productive.
    Is “Biffo” more representative of the plain people of Ireland than “Jugs”?
    Is it possible to snarkily attack Cowen without alienating a lot of people who might otherwise be more rational.

  • FJH

    There is of course the well tried if rarely successful option of the faithful ie. dump the leader and try to look squeaky clean in time for the next election.

  • Alias

    Cowen was right that “a new low” had been reached in political life but wrong about what it was.

    Despite his attempt to deflect the focus of the story, the “new low in Irish politics” wasn’t that an opposition politician stated that the Taoiseach appeared on national radio while drunk but rather that the Taoiseach had appeared on national radio while drunk.

    No leader of the country has ever made a drunken fool of his self in public before and thereby disgraced himself, his office, and more importantly, the country.

    Do we really need to be projecting the stereotype of the drunken, irresponsible goodtime Irish to the international community at a time when that community already has doubts about our collective sanity? Those sober-suited folks in the international money markets won’t see the funny side of it…

  • Cynic

    When the IMF arrive nobody will be able to afford drink

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Good. Its far too cheap. And I think we should raise the minimum age to 35.
    Drink causes “accidents” on the road, spousal abuse, vandalism, crime, unintended pregnancy, disease, and addiction..though obviously not all at the one time.

    The sooner we become like Saudi Arabia the better.
    And it makes people burn in Hell for Eternity.

  • Greenflag

    I never knew him nor shook his hand nor wanted to . He was a fan of Hitler and Mussolini and Oswald Mosely was allowed to have a quiet refuge in that part of the country iirc .

    I’m sure he possessed the usual Irish politician traits . Somebody in the USA said America would have been a better place if their had been more politicians like Strom Thurmond who was just a good old boy who thought Civil rights for African Americans was a step too far 🙁

    Flanagan was an idiot albeit an idiot who could claim that there was no ‘sex’ in Ireland before the Late Late Show ;(.

  • Greenflag

    All of the above can easily be explained by reference to the ‘provisional ‘ not official nor real results of the secrets of the Irish genome as recently investigated by some academics from Cork . I would think the described genetic behavioural traits are apllicable on both sides of the border and have become more widespread in recent years .

    From that unimpeachable source of all matters scientific and political the Irish Times 🙂

    If this doesn’t ring bring a few smiles for the weekend or help to up the down people or down the up people then it’s a poor lookout for cliches 🙂


  • Greenflag

    particularly relevant extract for the party political afficionados

    ‘Early in the sequencing project, geneticists thought they had identified a variant that caused strong belief systems in those affected: the so-called “party-political” gene. But before they could study this in detail, the DNA involved appeared to have spontaneously split itself in two parts, nicknamed the “official” and “provisional” variants by scientists. The process has since repeated itself and there are now so many offshoots that work on this part of the genome has been suspended pending the recruitment of extra staff.’

    ‘It’s not just ‘republicanism ‘ that suffers from the ‘split genes’ apparently ‘unionism ‘ contracted a virulant copy of said gene back in the 1970s or even 1960’s and it has now giving rise to several ‘mutants’ such as the TUV being the latest . On the Republican front there is a new mutation which seems to have originate in a quiet hidden office in London where the ‘real’ mutation has been split into new forms including ‘surreal ‘ ‘unreal’ and ‘really real’

    Jaysuz wept 🙁

  • Greenflag

    ‘ Those sober-suited folks in the international money markets won’t see the funny side of it…’

    So? . If they haven’t a sense of humour let them go f*** themselves ‘ MIght make a change from them screwing the people of the world for the past decade or more . What are the IMF anyway but Milton Friedman’s SS financial shock troops in sober suits . A rat in a sober suit is still a rat !

    The IMF are nothing more nor less than the ‘international monetary cabal’ made respectable by the leading financial institutions of Wall St and the City and the Swiss gnomes -in short criminal ‘c**ts ‘ who should be deballed before summary trial and execution !

    And I’m a moderate 😉

  • slug

    Would I be right in thinking you believe you are not in this overclass?

  • Munsterview

    My comments on Olliver J were in regard to his personality. His politics were another matter ! My comment on the latter would allow for too much tolerance !