Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Brian Cowen interview: Irish PM 'was hoarse but not drunk'

Taoiseach Brian Cowen held a press conference to deny giving a live radio interview while drunk or hungover
Taoiseach Brian Cowen held a press conference to deny giving a live radio interview while drunk or hungover
Brian Cowen at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway city
Taoiseach Brian Cowen admitted his voice sounded hoarse

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has apologised for his performance on a live radio interview which sparked a furore over his leadership.

He said he had not meant to disrespect the people of Ireland in the controversial morning broadcast, just hours after enjoying a late-night gathering in a hotel bar. But he again insisted claims by political opponents that he "sounded halfway between drunk and hungover" were not true.

Repeatedly referring to a hoarseness in his voice, Mr Cowen admitted the interview with RTE radio at 8.50 on Tuesday morning from his Fianna Fail party's annual "think-in" in Galway was not his best performance. But he said he had fully prepared for it over the weekend and did not take lightly his public duties.

"I would like to make it very clear that there was no intention on my part whatever of any disrespect to the country or the people of Ireland in respect of the interview itself," he said. "I just want to assure people that there is no disrespect intended and certainly make sure that something like that wouldn't happen again."

Mr Cowen's performance on Ireland's most listened-to radio programme sparked a wave of criticism from Opposition politicians and the public who contacted talk radio shows and posted messages on websites.

It emerged that the Taoiseach had been enjoying a late-night session until 3.30am that morning in The Blazers bar at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway after the first night of his party's two-day get-together. Mr Cowen was drinking lager and entertaining colleagues with impressions of Irish golfers and also sang the ballad Lakes Of Ponchartrain during a traditional sing-song.

Opposition politicians claimed his sometimes less than coherent response to answers during the broadcast around five hours later raised concerns about his leadership.

But Mr Cowen again defended the substance of his answers but said the tone of his voice was not good because of the hoarseness. He added: "The assertions made subsequent to it were without justification, without foundation, were not correct, were not true. I would hate to think the reputation of the country or the Office of Taoiseach would in any way be affected by what I had to say."

The Taoiseach admitted the adverse publicity, which reached international news websites, was not good for the country and said he hoped the controversy did not damage his standing with his ministerial colleagues.

Fine Gael transport spokesman Simon Coveney had led the attack with a message posted on the social media website Twitter after the nine-minute broadcast. "God, what an uninspiring interview by Taoiseach this morning," he wrote. "He sounded halfway between drunk and hungover and totally disinterested."

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