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Prime Minister Brian Cowen

TV programme reveals how Fianna Fail Government panicked as crisis hit

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Prime Minister Brian Cowen

The dying days of the Brian Cowen government saw Ministers ‘bounced’ into the decision to guarantee the crippled banks – as a drink culture dominated Fianna Fail thinking.

An RTE documentary entitled ‘Crisis – Inside the Cowen Government’ contains the latest damning indictment of the leader in charge as the Celtic Tiger collapsed.

Cowen, lampooned by Jay Leno as a drunken Irishman after a Galway think-tank debacle, is badly portrayed in the new TV programme.

The documentary claims that Cowen’s ministers were rushed into the decision to guarantee the crippled banks in a move that has cost the state over $500billion.

It also features a claim by former Green Party leader John Gormley that the bank guarantee scheme was based on the theories of celebrity economist David McWilliams.

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Former Fianna Fail government ministers Mary Hanafin and Willie O’Dea told the programme that they were ‘effectively given no alternative but to approve the decision to offer a blanket guarantee to all of Ireland’s banks in the early hours of the morning at a crisis meeting on September 30th, 2008’.

O’Dea claimed: “We were told the markets were opening in the morning and there was the possibility of no money in the ATMs and that nothing short of this full absolute guarantee would save the situation.”

Limerick deputy O’Dea continued: “It was probably the most far reaching decision I ever participated in my five years in cabinet and I would have liked to have sat around the table to discuss it.

“The government did not have a mandate for the banking guarantee. In retrospect, it would have been better for the country if a fresh government had come to power at that stage.”

Hanafin, who has since lost her seat in the Irish parliament, added: “Ministers were told that it was the only option to protect people’s money and it had to be done before the markets opened.

 “That decision shouldn’t have been taken at a quarter to two in the morning, on the phone. Finance had known for some time that there was going to be a decision. All cabinet members should have been called to Dublin.”

The programme, aired on state television station RTE on Monday night, also saw former Minister Mary O’Rourke openly discuss Cowen’s fondness for a pint.

“Brian Cowen was very shy. Maybe the few drinks helped him, loosened his tongue and brought him back to a happier time, a space where life wasn’t as difficult or humdrum as it had become,” said O’Rourke.

In next week’s episode, Mary Hanafin expands on claims that Cowen regularly made decisions around the bar table and slams the drinking culture that existed in the final days of his doomed government.

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