Cowen's 'apology' for his role in crisis falls short
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night made a half-hearted apology for the economic plight of the country as he admitted he has "regrets every day".
Although he took responsibility for his performance in Government, Mr Cowen stopped well short of admitting any culpability for the downturn.
Unlike Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, he seemed reluctant to accept any responsibility for the causes of the crisis.
Mr Cowen somewhat echoed the sentiments expressed by Mr Lenihan a day earlier about the events that led the country to its current crisis. "I have done that (apologised) on many occasions -- I take full responsibility for my time and every ministerial role I had," Mr Cowen said.
"The Government were pursuing policies in a different time and what we have to do now, and what we have always been doing, is that now that this downturn came -- the biggest recession in 40 or 50 years -- we are taking the steps that are necessary to get Ireland back in the game," he said.
He has been criticised for his failure to apologise or take responsibility for his decisions as finance minister, which may have contributed to the crisis.
Mr Cowen said the plight facing many Irish families in the transformed economic landscape was a matter of great personal concern to him.
"I have often said it. I have said it on many occasions. I am sorry that people lost jobs, I am sorry that people have lost the standard of living that they had two or three years ago," he said.
"(But) what they expect from their Government is to come up with the decisions that will see them get the thing back on the road, get the show back on the road," he added.
He said there was no simple reason for the problems now facing Ireland, but said the abject failure of an independent regulatory regime for the financial sector was a major factor.
"I think it is important to point out that, if you look at the time, there was independent regulation (of the banks) and that was all the vogue.
"Everybody was supporting that and clearly it didn't serve us well. We now have a situation where we have to fix that system and we are in the process of doing that."
Mr Cowen said he would always hold himself accountable for the decisions impacting on Ireland. "It is all about, of course, being accountable for decisions that we took on the best advice available at the time.
"I have regrets every day, looking back, to see where the country has found itself."