Cowen ‘did not believe’ warnings of economic collapse

Former taoiseach says it is ‘very regrettable’ people are carrying huge burden as result of crisis

Brian Cowen at a press conference in April 2009. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Brian Cowen at a press conference in April 2009. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen did not believe those who warned the economy was in danger of collapsing and he had no plans in place for a “worst-case” scenario.

Mr Cowen said the then Fianna Fáil-led government had not foreseen the collapse in the economy and did not believe the minority of people who were warning of dangers at the time.

“Well, the truth is that we didn’t believe it. We thought the economy would have a soft landing, that economic growth would continue and we could pay for it through the growth that was to come,” he said.

In his interview in Irish with TG4’s Comhra programme to be broadcast next month Mr Cowen also stands over the controversial bank guarantee of September 2008.

“You see, what was happening at that time was that billions of euro were leaving the country. So we had to stop that and get that money back into the country if possible,” said Mr Cowen.

Taxpayers subsequently bailed out the banks to the tune of €64 billion due to the scale of the losses on property loans.

Mr Cowen said that after the guarantee “other things started to happen, which we hadn’t foreseen”.

It is his first full interview since he left public life.

Mr Cowen also said he was not expecting to get the job of taoiseach and that it was a pity that his political career had ended the way it did.

He said it was “very regrettable” that people were now carrying a huge burden as a consequence of the crisis.

“I would like to say because it’s important to do so, and I’ve said this before, I have a serious duty to accept my responsibility for what happened and I’m doing that. A lot of people are in trouble and they’ve got mortgages to repay and so on,” he said.

Mr Cowen did not seek re-election in his Laois-Offaly constituency after he stepped down as taoiseach.

In the interview, Mr Cowen said that every single day of his public life, his approach had always been to ask “what is best for the country here?”

“I may not have been right all the time. Clearly, nobody could be right all of the time. But we did our best and we were aware at that time that it wouldn’t be easy to get re-elected after the next election.”

Mr Cowen took over from previous taoiseach Bertie Ahern after he resigned from office in May 2008 amid controversy over his financial affairs.

The following month, the Economic and Social Research Institute said Ireland was heading for its first recession since the days of high unemployment and emigration in the early 1980s.

In September that year, an official economic report said Ireland was officially in recession. The Government announced a €440 billion State guarantee of all deposits in Irish financial organisations.

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