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Cowen's cowardice is cleverly disguised as prudence with the nation's budget

IF DAVID Begg, the capo di capi of Ireland's trade union movement, chokes on his sandwiches this Wednesday, chances are that Brian Cowen has delivered a good budget. Sadly, however, Begg's afternoon tea is unlikely to be spoilt.

Instead of tackling the issues that threaten Ireland's continued economic progress, the Finance Minister will be playing to the galleries. Our money will be handed back to us in a variety of crowd-pleasing ways: more money for pensioners, for children, for the poor.

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