Fionnan Sheahan: Cowen clings on but people deserve an apology, not just word games
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen still finds it difficult to apologise for the mistakes he, his Government and Fianna Fail made in the management of the economy for the past 13 years.
Mr Cowen says he takes responsibility for all his actions. Mr Cowen says mistakes were made. Mr Cowen says he is sorry for the condition of the country.
But the Taoiseach fails to draw the three elements of the equation together to make a categoric apology for the mistakes he made which contributed to the economic crisis.
He just can't do it. It's not in his make up. He continues to play word games, claiming he has dealt with the apology when he quite clearly hasn't.
"No one is more sorry. Is that understandable? No one is more sorry about this situation than I am. Nobody. And if you want to go over ... . I don't know how many times I have to say it," he told Sean O'Rourke RTE's 'News At One' yesterday.
If Mr Cowen has apologised properly, then why does he think a respected interviewer asks him the question again?
Until Mr Cowen -- as head of this Government, as leader of Fianna Fail, as Taoiseach, as former Finance Minister, as a Cabinet minister for the past 13 and a half years -- is prepared to make a sincere apology for the significant contribution to the economic crisis of policies initiated under this watch, then he and his party are going nowhere in terms of recovering in the eyes of the public.
His Government has failed abysmally to manage the public finances to the unprecedented extent that the IMF and the EU has an enormous influence over the country's economy.
Nobody is suggesting Mr Cowen is solely culpable for the present situation. However, he, his party, his Government, was responsible for:
- The inadequate regulation of the banks.
- The over-dependence on the construction industry.
- Fuelling the overheating of the property market.
- Allowing public expenditure to spiral unsustainable levels.
- The erosion of the tax base.
His credibility would improve if he would just openly own up to his failings and say he is sorry for those wrong decisions.
As long as he's not willing to do that, he deserves to languish in the polls and his efforts at an 'apology' cannot be trusted.
His spokesman said last night that there was no conditionality or equivocation in the Taoiseach's apology.
"The Taoiseach has made it clear on many occasions that he takes full responsibility for every decision he took -- but it is important to remember the context, they were appropriate for the time, but we are in very different circumstances now.
"If any of those decisions contributed to the difficulties we are now in, of course the Taoiseach apologises for those actions and has no difficulty in so doing. He never claimed that he got everything right -- only a fool would say that. That is the point he was trying to make on RTE today."
The Taoiseach is quick to demand Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore withdraws his accusation of "economic treason", but is still too slow to make his own reparations.
Now though, Mr Cowen's most important audience is not the public at large, it's the internal audience within Fianna Fail.
Mr Cowen is clearly trying to say to those in Fianna Fail that he has "the bottle for the battle". The time is running out for the Fianna Fail rebels if they want to remove him before the General Election.
Mr Cowen will be out of the country for most of next week at a time when rebels will have to strike if they want him gone as Fianna Fail leader by Christmas. But the Taoiseach's absence will take the sting out of any rebellion.
He made it clear yesterday that if the dissidents want him gone, they'll have to take him out. "I am the democratically elected leader of my party. There is a procedure if anybody has views about having another leader of the party," he said.
Brian Cowen is clinging on and will decide his own fate.