Cowen dismisses 'drunk' claims
Taoiseach Brian Cowen has dismissed claims that he sounded drunk or hungover in a live radio interview as a pathetic stunt by his opponents.
Mr Cowen insisted suggestions he was unfit for the morning broadcast were politically orchestrated.
"I think it's a real new low in Irish politics," he said.
The Taoiseach was challenged over his handling of an interview on RTE radio from his Fianna Fail party's annual 'think-in' ahead of the new Dail term.
Witnesses at the get-together in Galway said Mr Cowen was among scores of party members, including senior Government ministers, in the hotel bar until the early hours of the morning.
Renowned as a great mimic, he entertained colleagues with impressions of Irish golfers Philip Walton and Des Smyth as well legendary sports broadcaster Micheal O Muircheartaigh. Others present at The Blazers bar in the Ardilaun Hotel said the Taoiseach was drinking lager and left at about 3.30am.
His performance on the radio interview several hours later, at about 8.50am, sparked a furore with opposition politicians who alleged it raised concerns over his ability to lead the country.
Fine Gael transport spokesman Simon Coveney 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."
The controversy, at a time when Mr Cowen's ability to communicate with the public has come under intense scrutiny, prompted several senior Government ministers to defend him. Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said Mr Cowen had come under attack for simply being hoarse.
The Taoiseach dismissed suggestions he was worse for wear as petty personality politics and distasteful. He said: "It was obviously politically motivated and orchestrated. I think it's pathetic and pitiful."