Belfast Telegraph

Cowen hits back over economy

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said he cannot take full responsibility for Ireland's economic meltdown.

For the second time in a week the retired politician claimed that no one could have foreseen the crisis that bankrupted the country and forced his government to seek an international bailout loan deal in 2010.

Mr Cowen said that at all times his coalition of Fianna Fail and the Greens were making an honest attempt to deal with the unprecedented financial and economic collapse.

"There is no one more sorry than I about what happened," he said.

Mr Cowen was speaking at a book launch in Edenderry, Co Offaly, last night where it is understood he had originally not planned to speak publicly.

But the former Fianna Fail leader used the opportunity to defend himself against an attack on his tenure by Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore after previews of a TG4 interview with Mr Cowen due to be broadcast next month were released.

The Labour leader said yesterday that Mr Cowen had no Plan A, let alone a Plan B, to prevent the economy from collapsing.

Mr Cowen prefaced his comments last night with a swipe at the Tanaiste, saying that he was glad to see the Labour leader returning to Irish politics with "an original statement".

He also claimed he did not want to engage in tit for tat politics over the economic collapse but defended his time in power.

"Sometimes I get the impression that the quest for an apology, in some way that I went out to do something wrong and that I should apologise for that, but the motivation of my government or any government I ever served in, in any issue, was to do the very best we could in the very difficult circumstances we found ourselves in," he said.

"I've been very frank and open about that and I've always said, and I don't shift the responsibility to anyone in respect of my role as Taoiseach, the amount of responsibility that I must take and have taken openly and honestly.

"If it's a question that one has to take responsibility for everything that has happened in the private banking system or in the international world and financial markets I think that is perhaps more than is proportionate than something I should take.

"But that in no way suggests that I do not take my full measure of responsibility, whatever that is, but it i s not responsibility for everything and that's the point I have been making all along."

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