Friday 22 February 2019

Cowen says sorry for his part in economic meltdown

Brian Cowen:
Brian Cowen: "There is no one more sorry than I about what happened. I don't shift the responsibility from anyone in respect of my role with responsibility as Taoiseach"

FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen has given his fullest apology yet for his role in the economic crash – but insists he cannot take the blame for the collapse of international banks and markets.

Mr Cowen said nobody was as sorry as him for the economic crash and that he tried to do the right things at all times. Speaking last night at a rare public appearance, which came in the wake of a recent TG4 interview, he also rejected Taoiseach Enda Kenny's claim of an "axis of collusion" between Fianna Fail and Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Cowen said he had never criticised any of his predecessors in such strong terms, which he described as a "political charge".

"I have never accused any of my predecessors of untoward conduct of that nature at any time," he said.

In the interview for TG4's 'Comhra' programme, Mr Cowen admitted he did not believe the sceptics who warned the economy was in danger of collapsing. He also conceded he had no plans in place for a worst case scenario, which led Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore to say Mr Cowen had no Plan A, let alone a Plan B, to prevent the economy from collapsing.

But, speaking last night at the launch of a book called 'True Story' by author Denis McNamara at Larkin's Bistro in Edenderry, Co Offaly, Mr Cowen said he had retired from politics and refused to get drawn into "tit-for-tat" criticism.

"Well, I'm glad Eamon is back in politics first of all, coming up with an original statement," the former Offaly TD said. "I have no intention of getting involved in any political controversies with the present Government."

But he added: "There is no one more sorry than I about what happened. Sometimes I get the impression that the request for an apology is as if in some way I went out to do something wrong and I should apologise for that.

"The motivation of my Government was to do the very best we could. I don't shift the responsibility from anyone in respect of my role with responsibility as Taoiseach, the amount of responsibility I must take and have taken openly and honestly."

However, he said he could not take responsibility for markets and banking systems collapsing, which he said would be "more than is proportionate".

"That is in no way to suggest that I don't take my full measure of responsibility, whatever that is. But it is not responsibility for everything and that is the point I have been making all along."

"Every economy in the western world, there was no incumbent government, in Europe or the developed world, who can honestly say that they saw the implosion of the financial markets in the way that it happened. And that's fact."

He also said international bodies like the IMF and OECD were wrong in their forecasts.

Asked about Mr Kenny's "axis of collusion" claim, he said: "There is no basis to that whatever, that is a political charge and I took it as that – a political charge made in the Dail, an unfortunate one I think, because the government is talking about setting up an inquiry. Let them have their inquiry. We have had two detailed reports on this already.

"That political charge, that narrative, is one that was used going into the last election and throughout the controversy and I'm sure it is one that will be used going into the next election. It might win you one election. Whether it wins you two, that's a matter for you to decide.

"All I can say is there is no basis. It's a political charge and one that I refute."

Mr Cowen's statement last night came after he told Georgetown University in Washington last year that he and others in power had to take their "share of responsibility".

"All in authority have to take their share of responsibility for our present dilemma, and I, Taoiseach at the time and a former minister for finance, do so more than most," he said then.

"Governments make mistakes in good times and in bad times and I and others have apologised for those made by my government and for previous governments led by my party".

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Irish Independent

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