Cowen’s Croker cig lights up Liveline

THERE’S no smoke without ire, it seems.

Callers to RTÉ’s Liveline programme vented their spleen at Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday. His sin? Sneaking a cigarette in Croke Park at the end of the Cork-Dublin football clash last Sunday.

The incident happened some time after the match had ended and the vast majority of the crowd had vacated the stadium. Croke Park is a no-smoking stadium except for a number of designated areas. According to the stadium’s website, the goal of the policy is to “protect all employees, customers and visitors to the stadium from exposure to second-hand smoke”.

But Brian, the Liveline caller who had spotted the Taoiseach smoking in a non-designated area in open air outside one of the corporate boxes, apparently thought Mr Cowen could have caused a far greater problem – a fire.

Which is kind of ironic, seeing as Mr Cowen has spent much of the last two years desperately trying to put out fires.

Liveline Brian’s complaint was that the other smokers in the 82,000 attendance had to make their way down to one of the designated areas if they wished to have a cigarette.

“Obviously there’s no rules for Brian Cowen,” said Liveline Brian. “He obviously has his own personal rules.”

The Liveline switchboard lit up. Another caller, Eilis, didn’t see what the fuss was about, given that the Taoiseach had a stressful job and was merely enjoying a cigarette while attending a match during his holidays.

“I think life is really too short (for people to be complaining),” she said.

But Ann disagreed. “He may be Taoiseach but what difference is he to anybody else in this country?” she asked. “I was on a plane one time and a man was arrested for smoking.”

Thomas was in no mood for arresting the Taoiseach though. “I was in Croke Park and that woman would want to lighten up a small bit. Brian Cowen was smoking in a big, wide open space.”

But Lily from Dublin didn’t want to lighten up. “Nobody should smoke if they’re not allowed… and Brian Cowen is no different to anyone else.”

A spokesman for Mr Cowen said the Taoiseach had simply made a mistake, assuming it was permissible to smoke in the open air outside the corporate box. When a steward indicated otherwise, the Taoiseach immediately extinguished the cigarette, he said.

Croke Park indicated that the Taoiseach had done nothing illegal, as he had been smoking in the open air some time after the crowd had left. The stadium’s no-smoking policy wouldn’t have applied in such circumstances to anybody, a spokesman for the stadium said.

Programme host Joe Duffy tried to defend the Taoiseach, pointing out the stressful nature of his job.

But, Lily wasn’t buying it.

“We talk about Brian Cowen being under stress. He has the whole country under stress!”

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