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Lise Hand: Brian can't soar free of toxic stink left by Seanie's revelations

Remember the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, and the endless sequence of graphic images of a fountain of toxic crude oil spewing into the ocean like a foul stain, trapping and engulfing any creatures caught in its inexorable path?

Well, Anglo Irish Bank is Ireland's equivalent of the BP oil spill. The implosion of the broken financial institution has blanketed the taxpayers in a foul, toxic layer of debt and its still-spreading stain spells peril for anyone trapped in the slick.

And now the deadly spillage is seeping under Brian Cowen's door.

Since Seanie FitzPatrick's Book of Revelations hit the headlines last Sunday, the Taoiseach has been like one of those oil-covered birds filmed desperately flapping matted, sodden wings as it tried to separate itself from the morass.

And for over an hour yesterday in Leader's Questions -- more than three times the allocated time slot for this Dail set-piece -- Brian Cowen tried his utmost to disentangle himself from the toxic taint of Anglo.

The timing of this latest controversy is disastrous for him and for his party, while it's a glittering, wrapped-in-a-big-red-bow, late Christmas present for the opposition.

For in one fell swoop Golfgate -- the fated game of golf and dinner involving the Taoiseach and the former Anglo boss at Druids Glen in July 2008 -- draws the dots between Fianna Fail and the nation's favourite arch-villains, the fat-cat bankers.

The only way this scenario could be worse for Brian was if it had been revealed that he and Seanie had also nipped over to the Galway tent at the races (which were in full swing that same week in July) for a spot of lunch with some builder pals.

Naturally the opposition weren't going to look such a juicy gift-horse in the mouth, and one after the other, Enda, Eamon and Caoimhghin pummelled, excoriated, accused and mocked the man across the chamber.

"What this does is cement in people's minds, the close cosy relationship between the Fianna Fail party, big business and bankers," charged Enda.

Across the floor Brian and a line of ministers sat in total silence. Nor was there a peep from the scattering of backbenchers who had bothered to show up for the showdown.

A stony-faced Brian Lenihan was beside the Taoiseach, and looking none too happy.

And then Enda threw a sneaky but perceptive barb. "I note the intensity of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the way he's looking at you in respect of your reply," he sniped with accuracy.

Micheal Martin tried his best to look startled. But Enda was right -- the odds-on favourite to succeed Brian had indeed been watching the Taoiseach's performance like a hungry hawk.

Oh how desperately Brian tried to flap his wings and soar free. Why didn't he see the dangers of not making clear from the outset everything about his dealings with this bank, no matter how casual or unimportant he thought them to be?

For now he's firmly in the quagmire -- and who among his colleagues is going to pull him free?

Irish Independent