Thursday 26 April 2018

Cowen comes out swinging as Banking Inquiry gets nakedly political

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen arrives at Leinster House to give evidence at the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry
Former taoiseach Brian Cowen arrives at Leinster House to give evidence at the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

For more than four years, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has remained tight lipped as to his role in the worst ever financial crash in this country's history.

A stickler for procedure, Cowen had identified the Banking Inquiry as the venue of choice to have his say, once it became clear it was going to proceed.

This morning, like bear who has been hibernating for the winter, Cowen came out swinging and let fly at the nakedly political questions lobbied at him at the Inquiry from opponents.

As voices raised and hands went flying, the country got sight of the great barnstorming Brian Cowen of old, who went missing after he became Taoiseach.

After beginning his address with the now customary and requisite level of contrition, he took aim at the political opposition, think tanks, the Central Bank and the Regulator.

He was in fine form and was well able for what came his way.

There were some heated clashes between himself and Fine Gael's Kieran O'Donnell and then Joe Higgins.

Repeatedly, Cowen and O'Donnell clashed over the length of his answers, with O'Donnell repeatedly interjecting when Cowen spoke.

"My time is running short," O'Donnell pleaded.

"Please, deputy, it took you five minutes to ask the question," said Cowen.

"I will sit here as long as you wish," Cowen said when interrupted by O'Donnell.

During some tetchy exchanges between the two, Mr Cowen said some policies were clearly not sustainable and would have been moderated.

Again, the two politicians clashed with voices raising considerably.

"Do you want a political debate, or do you want answers,"  Cowen asked O'Donnell.

"I am trying to help you," O'Donnell responded.

"There was a rationale for everything we did, we were budgeting for the decline in housing output," Cowen said.

"If you build schools you have to put teachers in them, if you build hospitals you put nurses and doctors in them," he said in response to questions about the huge spike in current spending in 2006, just before the 2007 General Election.

Cowen responded sharply to a question from  O'Donnell as to whether he felt sympathy for those who suffered.

"You have no monopoly on upset deputy, or those in distress. Of course I have sympathy with those who have suffered. If we all had time back, but no one knew then we would have a financial crisis in 2008," Cowen said.

"I am not trying to shift the blame. I was the guy who was there I am here to explain," he said.

He continues to give his evidence but we are already left asking the question of where was this Brian Cowen between 2008 and 2011.


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