“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.