America’s Ambassador to Ireland told colleagues that Brian Cowen’s Biffo nickname was entirely appropriate.
Thomas Foley was the American ambassador in 2008 when he claimed that the Biffo name applied ‘especially well’ to Prime Minister Cowen.
The remarks – now exposed by Wikileaks and the Irish Independent – were sent from the Dublin embassy to then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Foley’s candid profile of Cowen was also re-distributed to every American embassy within the EU.
The ambassador described Cowen as ‘burly and brusque’ and said he had ‘a reputation of not being much concerned with his public image’.
The Independent reports that the ambassador also described Cowen’s fondness for frequenting pubs and singing, saying he would likely be more approachable than his predecessor Bertie Ahern.
Foley wrote: “Cowen is very popular among the rank and file Fianna Fail members, who affectionately refer to him (as he also refers to himself) as ‘BIFFO’, which commonly stands for ‘Big, Ignorant F--cker from Offaly.”
The American ambassador was positive towards Cowen and told Washington that having Cowen as Irish Prime Minister would be beneficial to US interests as he was ‘more affable and approachable’ than Bertie Ahern whom he regarded as ‘a sociable loner’.
According to Foley, Cowen had a ‘raucous, combative style of arguing’ and ‘a reputation as a formidable debater’ who was ‘known for his direct approach to negotiations’.
He also claimed that Cowen liked to socialize with his constituents in local pubs and had a good sense of humor but did not suffer fools gladly. He added that Cowen was known as having a good singing voice.
Other cables obtained by Wikileaks confirm that US diplomats had earmarked Cowen as a potential Irish Prime Minister as far back as 2004.
Their opinion of Cowen changed in later years when cables claimed he failed to heed warning signs about the economic crash.
Ambassador Foley was also critical of Cowen when he failed to get the first Lisbon Treaty ratified in 2008.