THERE he was again — drinking and laughing as if nothing had happened.
Thankfully, Brian Cowen was indulging in nothing more than a cup of tea and a polite chortle — but he has no one to blame except himself for the fact his intake of liquids is now monitored as closely as that into Inniscarra Dam during the flood season.
More plus points for our chastened Taoiseach: it was in the middle of the afternoon, rather than the middle of the night, and Mr Cowen did not lapse into one of his improv stand-up comedy routines — or even do a lap of the room on a tricycle while dressed as a clown before giving a major interview to CNN.
Maybe he has learned his lesson. Maybe, after 29 months as Taoiseach, Mr Cowen really has actually realised he needs to act more like an, er, Taoiseach. Maybe.
Mr Cowen insists he is not a Taoiseach on probation and he did not look like one when he arrived for the launch of the massive DIT education project in North Dublin — but, unfortunately for him, he did look like a man on political death row.
Electoral execution is a cruel business and Mr Cowen staggers desperately from day to day hoping for the reprieve that will never come, not knowing who will deliver the killer blow first — his panic-stricken party colleagues, or those very angry voters waiting for him in the long grass.
Helpfully, Bertie Ahern was on hand to dismiss the whole leadership crisis as a “storm in a tea cup” — though it would probably have been more accurate to describe it as a “gale in a lager glass”.
And, for once, Mr Cowen did appear to be enjoying a bit of breathing space, but the rebels are regrouping and this is just the pre-opinion poll lull.
The Dáil finally returns next Wednesday from the 81-day summer break imposed on it by a Taoiseach terrified of his increasingly creaky coalition with the Greens surviving the division bell — and all that pent-up pressure will be back on show once again as the fuse burns down to the bombshell budget.
But Mr Cowen still has a dwindling band of supporters within Cabinet.
He survived the Government’s tarnished tanglings within the Galway Tent, but Mr Cowen has now seen his reputation badly damaged by the Galway Dent in his credibility caused by the blazing “I don’t give a blazes” bash in Blazers Bar during the Fianna Fáil drink-in.
And still there are ministers willing to prop him up in public when he needs a helping hand.
During his tour of Britain, Benedict XVI had 10 Swiss Guards running around his popemobile for protection, and yesterday the Taoiseach had his hale and hearty Mizz Patrol flanking his No Hope-mobile as it pulled into the DIT site — Ms Mary Coughlan and Ms Mary Harney.
The Taoiseach may be living on a prayer politically, but at least he still has two Hale Marys to perform for him.
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