Timorous Cowen must be ousted . . . and fast
The Taoiseach is worse than hapless, he is wilfully blind to what is happening in his Government and to the country, says Alan Ruddock
It is hard to pick a low point in last week's news, but Thursday's economic statistics came closest. While the media focused its fire on Brian Cowen's minimalist reshuffle and the simmering discontent on his Fianna Fail backbenches, the release of the Quarterly National Accounts confirmed what many had feared: far from bottoming out, or even turning a corner, Ireland's economy plunged deeper into recession in the last three months of 2009.
The worst is not over, no matter what the Government wants us to believe. Beneath the headline figures the news was even more depressing. The slim recovery last autumn, which saw the economy edge back into growth by the slenderest of margins, has been revised downwards: the recession did not end, not even temporarily, not even technically: Ireland's relentless decline slowed for a few months, but then gathered pace again as the year drew to a close.
Even worse, the figures for the domestic economy, excluding the profits earned by the big multi-nations, showed a staggering 11.3 per cent collapse in the year and more than 20 per cent from its peak. No matter how this tale of economic woe is spun, this can no longer be referred to as a simple recession: Ireland is in the grip of a depression.