Monday 24 October 2016

Mr Cowen contradicts himself at the Inquiry

Published 03/07/2015 | 02:30

'Mr Cowen had not come to the party to be turned on the spit'
'Mr Cowen had not come to the party to be turned on the spit'

This is fine weather for barbecues and, given the heat in the build-up to former Taoiseach Brian Cowen's appearance at the Banking Inquiry, there was an expectation of charred flesh. As is often the case, we got a lot of smoke, some flashes of fire, but nothing really substantial to chew on.

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Clearly, Mr Cowen had not come to the party to be turned on the spit. There was a mild act of contrition but there were also contradictions. Yes, he was very sorry that hardship had been caused by decisions that were made.

But he entreated "we were on our own". All told, he was "very happy" with his job as Minister for Finance.

Regarding the now-infamous bank guarantee, he noted: "If we didn't get it right, we would have set the country back 25 years". And there is the rub.

There is ample evidence to suggest that they didn't "get it right", and that they did set the country back decades.

The cost of the banking crisis is now clocking up close to €100bn. In short, the economy almost suffocated under the weight of the "blanket" guarantee.

The real contradiction came with his claim that none of his comments should be read as him trying to "pass the buck to anyone else".

That would be fair enough had the former Fianna Fáil leader not gone on to say that the primary responsibility for the crisis "lies with the banks".

He is right, primary culpability does lie with the banks, but he also has a problem. When one says that one has no choice, as with the blanket guarantee, one is putting daylight between one's decisions and responsibility.

We have waited a very long time to hear why decisions were made, and what advice was either taken or ignored.

We do not require shows of abject remorse but smouldering resentment doesn't quite cut it.

They say that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. The nation has held on to its anger for too long.

It is critical that we turn the page and move on. Blame and humiliation need not be part of the script, but open and frank acknowledgment of errors and misjudgements ought to be.

There's nothing civil about violent protest

It was said that it was civil disobedience that delivered civil rights. But few could claim that there was much civility in the scenes witnessed at the gates of Leinster House this week. Today, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan will be asked about policing arrangements put in place to deal with the anti-water charge demonstration.

But the real issue is why did a minority of protesters feel they had the right to block democratically elected politicians from governing the country.

A woman garda was knocked unconscious. Protesters banged on cars and behaved in a threatening manner.

Protesters have every right to demonstrate but they have no permission to interfere with the lives of others.

Some TDs spoke of the verbal abuse they endured. Such antics serve no cause. Remember it was Daniel O'Connell who was the first champion of civil disobedience. He relied only on the might of his cause and he faced down an empire. As Tánaiste Joan Burton said: "The right to peaceful protest is essential to democracy. But when a garda is injured and left requiring medical treatment, nobody can seriously call that a peaceful protest."

Irish Independent

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