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Sinead Ryan: Is Cowen a misogynist?

Misogyny is an old-fashioned term.

It's not used lightly about someone and says something deep-seated and irretrievable about them.

It's not just the dictionary definition of a man who doesn't rate women -- when we use it in a modern context it's really about a man who cannot handle women, feels threatened by them and doesn't know how to relate to them.

If this then is the description we are using, it is hard to escape the fact that Brian Cowen is in fact, a misogynist.

We already know his penchant for the old boys' network, his fondness for late night sing songs in the pub and he loves his GAA.

So far, so Fianna Fail.


However, his recent reshuffle at Cabinet screams of a man who feels so out of depth with articulate, clear women around him that the only one he can bear to have at senior level and as his deputy is a woman who has been described as having a high 'cringe factor' for her crass language, her size 11 foot- in-mouth gaffes and her laddish swagger. She's the blokey one.

On the other hand we have the slightly prim Mary Hanafin who has been nothing but unswervingly loyal (de rigeur inside the FF tent); well able to handle her brief; extremely competent in front of a microphone or camera, a skill which ought not be underestimated and indeed, could be learned from, and is unfailingly polite, clear and assertive even when the news is bad.

Putting her as Minister for Fun is an outrageous waste of talent.

And Mary Harney is in Health only because nobody else wants it and she's an Independent in any event.

But what does all this say about the Taoiseach himself?

Mary Hanafin was at pains to point out during the week that she's already in an elite group in Government -- so few women have ever served at ministerial level that we have days out for them.

However, in the 21st century, the lines should be less clear and require more than a few skirts lining up the front bench.

We've all grown up, but Cowen seems reluctant or even afraid, to embrace all the qualities that a woman in a senior role can bring: his experience with Coughlan is an anomaly rather than a benchmark.

Marie Hoctor was brave enough to get on radio yesterday and decry the decisions -- there's a lady who won't be seeing a ministerial seat again.

But isn't it a pity that Cowen can't see what's right in front of his eyes?

Mary Hanafin was once touted as a future leader of Fianna Fail.

She quite simply, never puts a foot wrong, and irrespective of your party affiliations, she impresses.

There then -- is that it? He's worried she's after his job.

But Cowen is bigger than that -- Brian Lenihan at Finance is clearly the people's favourite and far more competent there than Cowen himself was.

Micheal Martin likewise -- super ambitious and clawing his way to the top, pushing Dermot Ahern out of the way.

He gets the important Foreign Affairs to add to his CV.

So it's not ambition that scares the Taoiseach.

Must be the nicely tailored skirt, then.


It's a disturbing quality in anyone in this day and age, and one which is not easily discouraged.

One hopes that the next Taoiseach will make better, smarter choices about who to surround themselves with.

Then our young women might get the signal that entering politics is a noble profession where they can do well as legislators.

At the moment, it just seems like one big stag night.