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A change in fortunes follows strife of Brian

JUST after two o'clock yesterday, Brian Cowen got the first indication his luck had changed when the 5/2 favourite Realt Dubh won the 1.45 race at Leopardstown.

Confirmation of his good fortune came when Hidden Cyclone romped home in the 3.20 at odds of 11/4. Mr Cowen was said to be in grand form when he heard the news.

Superstitious folk might see his winning streak on the racetrack as the passing of a jinx that has plagued Mr Cowen since May 2008, when he was elected Taoiseach.

An old friend rang him yesterday morning with the tips for Leopardstown. He said Mr Cowen has made a remarkable recovery.

"Above all, he doesn't want any recriminations within Fianna Fail," his friend said. "But he was laughing and joking, back to his old self."

The transition began on Saturday when he addressed a press conference in the Merrion Hotel to announce his resignation as Fianna Fail leader.

Anyone who has watched how obviously unhappy Mr Cowen has been in recent months would have noticed the difference; he seemed more relaxed, even content.

On Friday, it had become clear to him that resigning the leadership of the party was the only real option open to him.


He would have heard about the comments of Ray MacSharry. As a former Tanaiste, Finance Minister and Fianna Fail grandee, Mr Cowen, who has great respect for his elders and tradition, would have weighed up Mr MacSharry's words.

Asked if Mr Cowen's position as party leader was tenable, Mr MacSharry talked about the duty to support the party leader and defend him. But Mr MacSharry added: "With that defence comes responsibility for the leader; what he or she should do in the interests of themselves and the party."

Mr Cowen, the ultimate party loyalist, must have seen Mr MacSharry's interview as a signal to move on. But Mr Cowen would have listened much more closely to his wife Mary Molloy when he laid out the case for staying or going. Mary is a rock of common sense who keeps her husband grounded.

It was difficult to see what more he could do as leader of Fianna Fail and it must have made more sense to cut his losses and pass on the responsibility to another, said an old friend.

Others recalled that Mr Cowen never told anyone that he wanted to be Taoiseach and that his high office came about by chance.

Despite press reports about his leisure pursuits, Mr Cowen has always preferred to be near home, with his wife and two daughters or with local friends.

And freed from the yoke of high office, he will have more time to spend with them now.

Irish Independent