‘Independence’ is reason Cowen cannot pull off the Brown ‘trick’…

If it’s a given that the Irish media aren’t very fond of Fianna Fail, then Harry McGee’s summation of their prospects is as fair a one as I’ve seen in while. Early on he wonders out loud whether Brian Cowen can do a Brown and bring his party back from the brink so many believe he has already dropped off.

The analogy is an interesting one, and no doubt will have some appeal to those inside government. And despite the shrillness of his critics (nearly as shrill and partial as Gordon Brown’s were) there is some mileage in the idea that Cowen’s not spoken to the press or the people for much of the last two years because he’s been busy trying to do the right thing.

As Harry notes:

For the record, my own belief is that Cowen – despite many failings as Taoiseach – has tried his best over the past two years and has taken decisions – not all of them right – that were in the national interest but were to the detriment of his  party. I have said before that his larger sin was when he was Minster for Finance. He was too instutionalised; too cautuous; too careful; too happy to plod along. He was a card-carrying member of the reckless light-touch regulation brigade that inflicted so much damage to the country.

The difference is that Brown (who had also been a contented ‘light-toucher’ of the Greenspan orthodoxy) was able to act quicker, earlier and had more independent fiscal levers and financial resources to throw at the problem than Cowen.

That, I suspect, is the thing that’s rankling with Fianna Fail’s republican base: in all the ins and outs of the last ten/twelve years, the UK has retained sufficient independence to at least be seen to plot its own course out of what is, in fact, a much broader western mess.

Cowen’s fightback will no doubt encourage the troops, but he’ll need to start finding a way of explaining what he’s been doing for the last two years in such a way as not to blow the ‘independence myth’ the state was founded on. Early talk of compromising sovereignty backfired when the EU forced that ‘unwanted’ €80 billion into the country’s waistband.

Hostages to outrageous fortune lie waiting everywhere in the undergrowth.