FG sinks to new low in politics, says Taoiseach
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night attacked Fine Gael claims he was drunk or hungover in a radio interview as a "real new low in Irish politics".
Mr Cowen's poor performance in a morning radio interview generated an astonishingly rapid range of criticism.
Fine Gael communications spokesman Simon Coveney cranked up the political pressure by saying Mr Cowen's interview was "uninspiring".
"He sounded half way between drunk and hungover and totally disinterested," he added.
Mr Cowen hit back by trying to pin the whole debacle on Fine Gael and the early morning internet message by Mr Coveney. This is where the "whole political controversy arose", he said.
The Taoiseach claimed the entire controversy had been "politically motivated".
"I think it's a real new low in Irish politics," he said to loud applause from Fianna Fail ministers, TDs and senators who gathered around him at a press conference to mark the end of the party's two-day think-in.
"I think it's very unfortunate. Simon Coveney was a person for whom I had some respect as a person and as a colleague. I just think it's an appalling and unfounded suggestion that was made," he said.
Mr Cowen insisted he had given full and frank answers in yesterday's interview and given them to the best of his ability.
But he conceded he had a "hoarseness" in his throat.
"I'm very sorry that Mr Coveney would resort to petty personality-type politics which I find distasteful. It's totally uncalled for," Mr Cowen said.
The only thing Mr Cowen apologised for was his voice. He insisted he could stand over the substance of what he said in the interview. "I'm sorry I'm hoarse but I answered all the questions," he said.
When asked about Fine Gael's Michael Noonan who echoed the sentiments of Mr Coveney, the Taoiseach said he was not going to comment on what opposition members were "saying without foundation".
And he further claimed he would not back-off from doing morning interviews in future.
"I'd hate to leave RTE with a vacant slot," he said to laughter from his Fianna Fail colleagues.
When asked if he ever thought of looking at his drinking and if he drinks too much, Fianna Fail members sighed. But Mr Cowen said he would like to answer the question.
"It's very important to recognise that there are social occasions which we enjoy after political work is done and after a long day yesterday," he said.
"Guests were invited here to our proceedings yesterday and we had dinner and we enjoyed their company. But, of course, moderation in everything rather than excess."