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The secret to a long life is knowing when it's time to go

Brian Cowen's wheezing interview with Cathal Mac Coille probably stirred unhappy memories in all his listeners, as they recalled similar miscalculations in their own lives.

The figure of a chastened Taoiseach donning his sackcloth and ashes as he trudged towards his public Canossa brought back a more specific memory as well, involving the startling portrayal of Cowen in Bertie Ahern's recent memoir. Ahern recalled the day he charged Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness with PIRA membership. They reacted badly, and began to berate Ahern before the then foreign minister, Cowen, lost his temper.

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