Does Taoiseach Brian Cowen have the will to make the cuts needed to steer the Irish economy back on track?

Taoiseach Brian Cowen told Irish TV chat show host Ryan Tubridy that he did not have a drinking problem on the latter’s first night as host on the world's longest running chat show, The Late Late Show, on Friday night.

Tubridy, who was expected to give Cowen a relatively soft run (considering his TV station is funded by license money from the government), put the Taoiseach under some scrutiny about the state of the economy and pitched a hard ball mid-interview when he asked if Cowen drank too much.

“No I don’t, not at all,” said the Taoiseach.

“Well where does the rumor come from?” was Tubridy's follow up.

Cowen, who looked a little uncomfortable at times during the interview, said that he had never brought the office of the Taoiseach into disrepute.

“I work hard and I’ve never in any way at any time when I was doing my public duties ever done anything in an inappropriate way,” said Cowen.

“And like yourself and members of the audience there are times at the weekend when you can relax with friends for a couple of drinks. That’s all this involves.”

Cowen has often been depicted on satirical shows as a boozer of biblical proportion, but the Taoiseach was adamant that he did not have a drink problem and that his enjoyment of the odd pint did not interfere with his running of the country.

Not that the state of the economy in Ireland at the minute wouldn’t drive any man or woman to the bottle  . . .

Something the two touched upon quite frequently during their conversation.

Cowen agreed that the next 100 days were crucial for the country, with the Lisbon Treaty, NAMA legislation, and a belt-tightening budget to pass to a public who seem to have lost faith in him (only 15 percent supported him as Taoiseach in a recent poll: Click here).

When Tubridy asked if NAMA was a bailout for developers, Cowen said:

"We have to make sure that we have a functioning banking system to get recovery back into the economy, we have to do that to save jobs, to keep business available for credit and able to pay their wages," he said.

"We have to confront that and that is what we are doing through the [National] Asset Management Agency," added the Taoiseach who said that the developers would still owe the money,  the taxpayer would not be footing the bill and that the country's credit worthiness depended on this.

On the Lisbon Treaty, Cowen told Tubridy that he had read it this time round (a major faux pas in the failed first campaign was the admission of the Taoiseach that he had not read the Treaty) and that the country had to ratify the Treaty this time round or risk being left on the periphery of Europe.

When asked if he would be Taoiseach in six months time, Cowen said the he would fight to pass the aforementioned key issues and bring in a budget that was necessary to get the country back on its feet.

"At the end of the day, we live in a democracy and people are the ultimate arbiters of who governs them.  In the meantime I have to do this job to the best of my ability with a clear conscience for the common good."