Upbeat Cowen considers his future outside of office
BRIAN Cowen rarely wears make-up -- and he hates television cameras.
The contrast between the outgoing Taoiseach and his predecessor Bertie Ahern was in plain sight when he arrived in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, yesterday.
Unemployed man David Darcy rushed over to greet Mr Cowen as he stepped on to Mount Street.
Mr Darcy, who is running "totally independent", extended his hand to shake Mr Cowen's.
"I'm just trying to get my face on the telly," he exclaimed, in reference to Bertie Ahern's gaffe outside Leinster House.
"Fair play to ya," Mr Cowen laughed as he arrived to open Aras an Mhuilinn in Mullingar.
Apart from one silent protestor who held up a 'Hands off our Hospital' sign on a white A4 page, Mr Cowen was welcomed at the new regional resource centre renovated by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann.
As he emerged from the building to answer questions, Mr Cowen was surprisingly upbeat.
"Take your time now, get the aul cameras organised lads. . . no hassle in the castle."
Mr Cowen said he was finally going to get the chance to sit down to discuss his political future with his wife Mary and his family over the weekend. "Did that include his brother Barry Cowen?" the Taoiseach was asked.
"That really anticipates a discussion which I've yet to make one way or another and I wish to reflect on that over the weekend," he responded.
However, it was when Mr Cowen reflected on the messages of support he has received in his constituency office from locals who believe he was hounded out of office, that he let his guard down. He gave the strongest indication to date that he would not run for re-election.
"I reached the leadership of Fianna Fail and had the great honour and privilege of being Taoiseach of Ireland and I now have to consider what direction my life will take after but politics will always be a part of it," he said.
Before he turned to go back inside the centre to enjoy the trad ceol, Mr Cowen once more showed his dogged loyalty to Bertie Ahern despite everything that has happened.
He insisted Bertie didn't embarrass the party by saying his big regret was not seeing a national stadium constructed during his tenure.
"Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach was a tremendous leader of our country. I served with him, I know his commitment, his dedication to the job at hand, his commitment to peace and bringing prosperity to our country at that time," Mr Cowen said.
"There was a mandate of three elections in a row for him. He was an excellent leader and Taoiseach, I want to make that point.
"We are now in a totally different situation, a new situation and the responsibility that has fallen to me is to make the decisions that are necessary for the country during my tenure."
As Mr Cowen defended Bertie's actions, two young men walking down the street in Mullingar spotted him. "There's the TD that f***ed the country," one roared, a brown bag of chips in his hand.