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Drink, depression and delusion

As the week went on it seemed clearer and clearer that this country's fatal flaw in recent times was one Brian Cowen. Less clear is what exactly Brian Cowen's fatal flaw was. Because it is that -- probably just one -- personality flaw in just one man that has laid us all as low as we are this weekend. The three Ds -- drink, depression and delusion -- have all been offered.

Cowen's drinking and even the possibility that the huge errors of judgement he has made in the last week were fuelled by drinking are now being openly discussed.

Even his former supporters were saying last week that he was delusional -- out of touch with reality. And his extreme ups and downs -- periods of morose sulkiness followed by short bursts of almost stunning combativeness when his own ass or that of his party was on the line -- are now talked about as a matter of fact.

In fact, Cowen's greatest flaw is probably something else, albeit related to the three Ds. Less than a week ago, the Taoiseach was again insisting that he is about substance, not style, that he doesn't have a PR guru.

When Matt Cooper repeatedly put it to him that when communication was identified as a problem maybe he should have done something about it, the Taoiseach got angry.

Put aside for a moment the fact that Cowen made a bollix of the substance as well as the style. And put aside for a moment that he does have Eoghan O Neachtain and a team of advisors who collectively earned €800,000 last year. None of that matters if a man is not willing to listen and learn.

And that was Brian Cowen's problem. He signified it at the outset of his leadership when he basically told his deputies and ministers that it was "my way or the highway". The proof that he was true to his word is in how it ended, with Cowen still insisting that his way was the right way, despite all evidence to the contrary

Extraordinarily, Brian Cowen still seems to have learnt nothing. They say drinkers do not evolve emotionally or intellectually. They are stuck in a loop. Or you could just put it down to old-fashioned arrogance.

Contrast this, if you will, with the Brian Lenihan we heard whining a couple of years back about how he didn't ask to be made Minister for Finance. The world fell apart around Lenihan too but he took on Finance and learnt and learnt relentlessly -- despite serious cancer.

Already, it is tempting to feel sorry for Brian Cowen. He seemed yesterday like a man from whom a great weight had been lifted and the last 30 months or so have probably ruined his life. But it is his own fault.

Because he wouldn't listen, wouldn't learn, wouldn't adapt and wouldn't grow. These things are the very key to survival. And with that flaw, he took us all down with him.

Sunday Independent