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We were right to let interview go ahead, say party advisers

FIANNA Fail's top advisers last night defended their decision to allow Taoiseach Brian Cowen go on early morning radio after having just a few hours' sleep.

The party's new communications chief, Pat McParland, who started in his position only last week, was thrown into a media storm yesterday as the controversy over Mr Cowen's 'Morning Ireland' interview erupted.

But Mr McParland defended letting Mr Cowen on the air sounding hoarse and under the weather.

"The leader's interview with 'Morning Ireland' on the second day is a well established feature of the think-ins," he said last night. All party leaders give interviews to the programme at their think-ins, and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny did an interview from his party's event in Waterford last week.

Mr McParland, who is also deputy general secretary of Fianna Fail, joined the party from Northern Ireland Water to fill a long-standing vacancy.


Mr Cowen is normally given media advice by Government Information Services (GIS). But since the think-in is a party event, GIS is not allowed to advise the Taoiseach and it falls to the Fianna Fail press office to organise interviews and provide guidance.

But some coalition sources said it would have created a bigger fuss if the Taoiseach had decided at the last minute not to take part in the interview.

"Sure, what could he do, pull out of it?" a senior source said. "That would have been a bigger story. He had to do it.

"He sounded nasally in the afternoon press conference too. And he did an interview after the think-in a few years back and it was just as bad but nobody kicked up then."

But backbench TDs were privately critical of the decision to allow Mr Cowen go on the air sounding so bad.

"Somebody should have stopped him," one Dublin TD said. "I was getting texts as he was on, asking me what the hell was going on. It was bad."

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"He shouldn't have went on like that," a rural TD added.

Backbenchers have been grumbling for a long time about Mr Cowen's communications strategy and the issue came up at numerous parliamentary party meetings in Leinster House.

The appointment of a new communications chief was cited by Mr Cowen as a key element of improving how the party sells its message to the public.

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