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Cowen's wounds are his own fault

IN the fable, the scorpion stings the frog which is carrying him across the river. Although it means doom for both, it is in his nature. That seems to the case with Mr Cowen's inept handling of his meetings with Sean FitzPatrick.

He has single-handedly turned what should have been mere political knockabout into a serious crisis. Looking at some past performances, that seems to be in his nature.

Arguably, the most minor part of the affair could yet be the fatal blow for the Taoiseach. When that other golf club visitor, Sinn Fein's Caoimhin O Caolain, asked who else was with Mr Cowen and Mr FitzPatrick, the Taoiseach said it was Smurfit Kappa chief executive Gary McGann and consultant Alan Gray.

Inexplicably, he neglected to say that Mr McGann was then a director of Anglo Irish and Mr Gray on the board of the Central Bank. Did he think no one would know that? Did he think failure to mention it would not matter? Or is it in his nature not to say anything which might be conceivably cause any trouble?

Let us be quite clear about this. There is no reason why Mr Cowen should not meet Mr FitzPatrick in 2008 to discuss the situation at Anglo. If one wanted to have such a discussion, there could be few better people to have along than Mr McGann and Mr Gray. The former has huge experience and the latter has one of the best brains in Irish finance and was deservedly nominated to the board of the Central Bank.

But the Taoiseach says they did not really discuss Anglo. As a letter to this newspaper yesterday said, if Mr Cowen was with these gentlemen and did not talk about Anglo, then he was irresponsibly wasting his valuable time. Merely playing golf makes it worse, not better.

Mr Cowen has made it look as if he has something to hide. Yet no one has produced any evidence that he does. Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore did nothing for his reputation by saying Mr Cowen was guilty of economic treason if he knew Anglo was insolvent in September 2008.

It would be hard to beat that for weasel words. Unless and until evidence of official advice to the Government that Anglo -- never mind all the banks -- was seriously insolvent, there is no reason to use that kind of language.

Yet Mr Cowen remains the architect of his own misfortunes. He has even created the impression that he knew little or nothing of the banking crisis before the September guarantee.

Again, it is public knowledge that, not only was deposit insurance increased before then, but that there were incessant meetings of all kinds about what to do. No wonder so many of the Fianna Fail ministers yesterday looked pretty much as that fabled frog must have felt.

Irish Independent