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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 21, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

    Cowen accepts the bailout but not the responsibility

    Laura Slattery

    As a result of an ill-judged edit, viewers of the national broadcaster missed the liveliest and most telling part of the press conference held tonight at Government Buildings by the current Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the current Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan. TV3 host and Irish Times columnist Vincent Browne asked Cowen if he accepted that he was to blame for “screwing up the country”; that he more than anyone else was responsible for Ireland’s economic catastrophe and that his continued presence in office was “a liability” to the nation.

    “I don’t accept that at all,” replied Cowen, grumpily. “I don’t accept your contention [or] the premise to your question that I’m the bogeyman you’re looking for.”

    Minutes earlier, a Bloomberg television journalist who asked if Cowen had ever thought of packing it in was told that the process of electing a Taoiseach was a parliamentary matter… mumble, jargon, mumble. As for whether or not he would lead Fianna Fáil into the next election, “obviously that is my intention”.  All of this enraged Browne who temporarily became the voice of a nation’s anger about the bizarre lack of contrition on the part of a Taoiseach who insisted there was a rationale for every decision (that he would explain to Browne on another occasion if he wanted) and that every decision the Government had made was “in the national interest”. “I have always taken full responsibility for my actions,” said Cowen, lost in doublethink and seeming almost resentful of the television cameras.

    He was also unable to answer Browne’s inquiry about the estimated level of Irish citizens’ future debt burden. This, he explained, would depend on the size of the drawdown on the assistance offered, which in turn would hang on further stress-testing of the black-hole-banks. Something to look forward to, then.

    There is at this point no confirmation on the total size of the bailout from the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (plus some bilateral loans from the UK and Sweden thrown in for good measure). Lenihan earlier in the day said it would not be “a three-figure sum”, by which he really meant it would not be a 12-figure sum of €100,000,000,000 or more. In other words, it will be less than €100 billion, according to the Government. EU sources and UK banking analysts say something similar, in case the Government’s best guesses are no longer enough.

    The only thing the press conference confirmed tonight, amid a blaze of obfuscation, was that Ireland will be taking the money. As a result, Irish public finances, for the next three years at least, will be subject to “regular reviews” by the external monitors that control the purse-strings. Whether the Government will be taking responsibility – as the concept of responsibility is understood by the (mostly livid) Irish viewers of the BBC and Sky (which kindly broadcast the press conference in full) – is as yet uncertain.

    It’s an infinitesimally small comfort, but Browne’s series of questions, transmitted live to millions across Europe, will at least have shown internationally that Irish people are not okay with incompetence, not sanguine about fecklessness, not calmly accepting of economic negligence. This, in the long run, can only improve our reputation. Shortly after Browne’s indignant contribution, the two Brians exited stage left. TV3, for its part, is broadcasting a special edition of Tonight with Vincent Browne at 10.30 pm, where the rational apoplexy will continue.

    • Richard Keogh says:

      Well we know what the tv licence fee is for now, to censor the hard questions and protect this disaster that calls itself the Government from scrutiny. Well done TV3, Ursula Halligan and most of all Vincent Browne.

    • agnosti says:

      What is that?

      “If the Euro fails, then Europe fails”
      It would be truer to say this: that if the Euro fails, then Germany fails. Germany’s relation with the Eurozone is similar to that between the US and China. People say Germany is the Europe’s growth engine, but it is the inverse: it is Germany’s growth that is tied to that of Eurozone countries, for the German economy is highly, very highly, dependent upon Eurozone countries’ ability to import German products. If the Euro fails, then so will the German economy. If, for instance, Spain abandons the common currency, it will regain the capacity to boost its own exports by means of currency devaluation – something that will make German products lose ground in Spain’s domestic market and turn Spain exports more competitive vis-à-vis Germany’s in other European countries.

      The German people sincerely believe that, by bailing out weaker countries such as Greece, they’re actually doing them a favour. How much their own jobs depend on the vigour of the Eurozone as a whole, they don’t realize.

    • Eanna Kelly says:

      I’m dismayed. RTE have censored before (Cowen’s naked portraits).

      At the same time, am exceptionally proud of Vincent Browne- He is a true fighter. He offers us a channel for our impotent rage like you rightly stated.

    • Ellen Dillon says:

      It speaks volumes about the arrogance of our leaders (in particular the Brians, and Marys Coughlan and Harney), that reasonable questions asked by the citizens whose interests they are supposed to represent are met with ‘I reject that’ or ‘I don’t accept that’. Their persistance in confusing honest questions about responsibility and accountability with something called ‘The Blame Game’ demonstrated the extent to which they are bewildered and intellectually barren.
      On Friday evening, driven demented by another blustering ‘rejection’ issuing from the billowing lips of our bilious leader, I felt like a game to distract me from my woes. I couldn’t find any reference to the rules of ‘The Blame Game’, so I played a round of ‘Brian Cowen Rejects’. On Friday night, a Google search for these three keywords yielded 20,190 results. By this evening it stood at 41,600. And an advanced search for the full phrase ‘Brian Cowen rejects calls to resign’ yields 2,190,000. Yes, that’s over 2 million results.
      Although I’m sure our esteemed leader would reject that.

    • To clarify: I think the licence fee is very important. I don’t know anything about the whys of RTE’s coverage earlier – and I don’t think it’s the main point here anyway – but I do know that depriving it of resources will not help viewers get the service they want.

    • Bradley Purcell says:

      From across the pond (Virginia to be exact)

      1) Ireland and the US both need not to keep making the same mistake, that of propping up dead banks. Keeping them open merely allows their insolvency to infect the state, and the economy. One by one the insolvent banks should be taken over (I know one of them has already been nationalized). Their good loans and many of the bonds (older ones first) as possible should be put into a going concern, while the bad loans and the rest of the bonds should go to a bad bank – for liquidation. Shareholders would take a bath, but they need one. Everyone else would get shot of the great gaping maw of debt that is eating everything in its path. The country and the economy could get on with life. The sooner people realize the prime minister was wrong to ever try to back up the banks, the better.

      2) Hoorah for the comment above about Germany. The Germans need to quit complaining about Europe and the Euro. If it weren’t for the euro, they’d be in recession, and their export business would be shutting down over the high mark. They and no-one else should pay to keep the Euro going.

    • Apparently the first group of people who will have to pay for this latest folly are those on the minimum wage, According to Brian Lenihan, it’s too high and out of kilter with inflation. Perhaps it is – but I would suggest that the Minister for Finance starts at the top with his pay cuts. No politician or civil servant or banker should be on a wage more than ten times that of the person on the lowest social welfare recipient/minimum wage slave. I suggest a cap of €100,000 for the top people. I also include in this number the tax avoiding RTÉ presenters, those who earn multiples of the current salary of the Taoiseach and then think it’s ok to deliver sermons to the rest of us on the need to cut social welfare and the minimum wage in order to ‘spread the tax burden’. If the RTÉ presenters complain, well then perhaps they should be allowed to test the market and see whether other stations will make an offer. Depriving RTÉ of resources is not the answer to our problems but ensuring RTÉ and other semi states prioritise their existing resources in a way which reflects the current climate is a reasonable request. That is to say no more lavish pay packages plus expenses for presenters and executives…..

    • georg says:

      dear irish, leave the euro zone, leave EU. we, I am from austria means a permanent paying member of the EU, have absolutely enough from paying and paying to you. first u got money to build up your economy, now u begg for our money, not to go bancupt. game over. basta

    • joe brennan says:

      to mr cowen and gormley,
      both you , your parties and our government are a national disgrace.

    • Sue says:

      @ agnosti & Bradley Purcell

      Let me think – Germany – pretty well off before the Euro. Ireland? Not so well. Infrastructure in Ireland without the EU? Non-existent. Celtic Tiger without Euro, the EU? Wouldn’t have happened. Did the Germans make you vote for this Government? Nope. Did the Germans make you buy houses at heavily inflated prices? Don’t think so.
      People would stop buying German goods if there was no Euro?
      The Germans did not bring this crisis upon you. Stop blaming others!

    • Tommie says:

      Sue, no the Germans didn’t make us vote for the Governement, but to be fair no one in the public actually voted for Brian Cowen!

    • caroline says:

      It would be much more amazing if Brian Cowan accepted responsibility and yes, he is correct about not being “the bogeyman” such a creature hides in the shadows but not our Brian – he is arrogant and self-righteous to the very end. How dare he and his useless collegues refuse to say precisely how much will be borrowed from the IMF – This is our country and those bandits are mortgaging it to the hilt!!! All that needs to be done now is to remove them from power and hopefully never see sight of them again!

    • Sue says:

      Tommie, I’m sorry I forgot. You voted for Bertie Ahern. And Brian Cowen as Minister for Finances. I really don’t mean to be cynical. Half my family, my children are Irish. I hate watching Ireland going down the drain like this. No sense of Schadenfreude whatsoever. But this business of trying to blame others and especially the Germans is driving me mad.

    • cold mike says:

      Laura Slattery you should even suggest a defence of RTEs cutting away from VB last night, RTE kept quiet when foreign media was talking about negotiations last weekend RTE arrived late to the most important press conference of the last 30 years (BBC and SKY were ready from the off, didn’t RTE know this was happening?) and then cut away early. Pathetic.

    • John Fitz says:

      Maybe its time we left the Euro. Our biggest trading partner is the UK. Recovery will never happen here until the UK picks up.
      Everything will be stable for a few days and next it will be Spain and Portugal in the firing line. Italy then and France could also be in trouble.
      Germany will not be able to handle the bailout for everyone.
      Its truly amazing that Germany started two world wars and achieved nothing, now without firing one shot they are in control of Europe.
      100billion on top of the 140billion we owe already and they except all will be ok by 2014.
      Complete fools.

    • Allan says:

      Once again RTE rolls over for its political masters to have its tummy tickled and ensure the gravy train of inflated salaries for vacuous analysis and entertainment continues. Presumably when Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan have secured there golden handshakes and finally resign they will head over to RTE just like Berty Ahern did to record their view of how the world was against them and how it would have all been so much better if it had all been done their way and these nasty foreigners had not stepped in to ruin the party. I have always known RTE as Really Terrible Entertainment and it looks like they are striving to keep up their previous standards.

    • Celtic Tigress says:

      Cowen – power without responsibility is the perogative of the harlot. I find it deeply ironic proposed cuts to numbers of ministerial drivers are under review. You & your cabinet really must develop courage under fire!
      My commiserations to all you ordinary citizens, who will pay through the nose. I still remember the IMF coming into the UK to tell us how to run the country, & the sense of shame was great. Expect the markets to go after other weak EU members now… ‘One size fits all’ currency was never going to suit everyone.

    • wilma says:

      wow, so it is the german’s fault that the Irish decided to keep taxes flat for foreign entreprises? and it is germany’s fault that you did not control your bakns. give me a break, this is so pathetic. you arrogantly voted against EU and now you desperately need Brussels – while still playing the infatile blame-game. grow up. if you vote for a neoliberal finance policy certainly you will get it…here it is.

    • Malcolm Smith says:

      I saw that news conference on Sky, and in it I thought Cowen looked like Sadim (aka Gordon Brown) whenever some uppity pleb had the temerity, nay the audactiy, to question the great Helmsman’s stewardship of the economy. Good on Vincent for sticking it to the poltical weasels, thought I think no one should ever hold their breath waiting for an admission of culpability from a politician, as Satan will need fittign for skates before that will ever happen.

      As for the bleaters who are castigating Ireland about their situation or indeed sayign they are “arrogant” for having the will to vote agaisnt the wishes of the EU apparatchiks and the politicla elites, get over yer selves all ready, and away hame and wash yer necks.

      Still, comments like that enable the public opposition to the EU to be maintained in the UK, to an extent that we’ll never join the bloody Euro and given half a chance will vote to leave the EU.

    • paul kenny says:

      it is so clear to me having witnessed the excessive waste of resources and dare I say fraud that has pervaded the irish state over the last number of years that we need the IMF to take total control of this country for the next 2 years.
      We have a massive debt assigned to only 4 million people (and that number is dwindling).
      With immediate effect all politicians and councillors should be laid off.A select group of civil servants in conjunction with a body of IMF staff should reform the whole structure /workings of the state.
      Any involvement in the clean up by our political establishment will only hinder the process.
      In 2 years time we can then democratically elect candidates fit to serve our great body of people.

    • Richard says:

      Love the headline : even Richard Nixon “accepted” responsibility (but not the blame, of course).
      Love the post.ie article’s comment yesterday about London trading desk blasting out the “Galway Girl” every time they brought in a successful trade shorting Irish bonds.

      This level of paddywhackery couldn’t be made up…yahoo, go on, get up. Lovely Girls show on telly later….yerra, shurra, begob an’ begorrah !

    • frag says:

      at least Brian Cowen didn’t pick his nose as usual last night

    • Rod Large says:

      One bloated over paid ‘semi-state’ after another. What does ‘semi’ mean anyway? If they are funded or underwritten by the state there is nothing semi about them. As regards RTE, they are an arrogant pathetic joke. On two occasions in the past six months they have had the opportunity to bring in fresh blood at senior management level (The MD TV and the DG). But surprise surprise two of the ‘boys’ got the jobs, lifers to a man. I work in the international TV business and it drives me to distraction to see DG Cathal Goan of RTE more highly compensated than his peer in public broadcaster ARD in Germany which is a much larger organisation servicing over 30 million homes. It drive me mad that the RTE presenters are made stars of by RTE and paid accordingly. It is just not necessary to pay them at that level, there is no market for their services in Ireland whatsoever. Please may the next government do someting about this self serving fiefdom?

    • Padraig O' Brien says:

      I’ve lived in Wales since 2002. Not sure why I bother to bother, but I do. I’m ashamed about the lack of intellect that I pick up from the political class in Dublin. I’m from a country constituency with a sitting FFer since year dot. I’ll be back to doorstep in February. Most of all, I’ll be doing it for my Dad.

    • Bill O'Donnell says:

      There are few if any here in the States who will not empathize with the Irish people, albeit not the present political “leadership”, so called, at this desperate juncture in Irish history. Unlike Taoiseach Cowen & company, however, those here will accept that we in the US—that is the late & unlamented Bush regime and our greedy investment banks —- made a major contribution to the current global economic instability and the pain Ireland and her people are feeling today.

      There is an immediate need, a craving really, for new, energetic and enlightened national leadership if Ireland, the EU and the IMF together are to overcome the excesses of recent years. And the Irish banks will have to help carry the burden!

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