These are strange times in Ireland, where whether or not a prime minister was drunk sets the Internet and the media on fire, and the man dancing on previous Prime Minister Charlie Haugheys’s grave becomes a massive YouTube hit.
The question of Brian Cowen’s drinking has been in the background throughout his time as prime minister. He is a gregarious sort, and it is no surprise to learn that he was out until 3 a.m. with colleagues and journalists, and was, according to The Irish Times, the life and soul of the party.
Doubtless he rolled off to bed having taken a lot of drink, and it is equally likely that he woke up with a hangover, and went on radio in that condition.
Listening to the interview tape, it is impossible to say for sure that he was drunk, but he certainly sounded worse for wear.
That was quickly seized upon by Simon Coveney, a member of the opposition Fine Gael party who immediately tweeted that Cowen seemed to make little sense in the interview.
That was enough for the media, which has been waiting for a very long time indeed to nail Cowen on his alleged drinking.
Every politician has a weakness. For Bill Clinton it was women. And for Brian Cowen it appears to be booze.
Throw that same accusation of drunkenness at any other politician in Ireland and it would not stick.
I know Brian Cowen reasonably well, and can testify that he has one of the sharpest minds of any modern Irish politician.
However, on assuming power, he has been slammed with the kind of economic misfortune that makes Barack Obama’s situation look like a tempest in a teapot.
The day before his incident, Cowen’s finance minister, Brian Lenihan, had stated that $4 billion or more would be taken back off the Irish taxpayers in the next budget to pay for the reckless behavior of the crony capitalists who have brought Ireland to its knees.
I think it was the combination of both those events that fueled the firestorm and the attacks on Cowen’s drinking.
Cowen called the attacks “a new low” and it is hard to argue with him.
No one can say with any certainty at all that he was drunk during the radio interview, but nonetheless an urban legend has been born that he was. It is just the latest nail in the coffin of this Irish government.
The man who danced on the grave of Charlie Haughey said he did so because Haughey began the period of political corruption in Irish life.
He will have a lot more graves of Fianna Fail politicians to dance on shortly, if the bad news keeps coming.
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