BRIAN COWEN was criticised by one of his most senior ministers who said the controversy surrounding a late night drinking session and claims the Taoiseach was drunk on air was “damaging”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, who is considered by many as the most likely successor to Mr Cowen, said the Taoiseach should “reflect on the challenges” that arise from a radio interview in which he was described as sounding “halfway between drunk and hungover”.
Following the Morning Ireland interview on Tuesday, a number of Government ministers, including Mr Martin, came out to defend their leader saying he was merely hoarse and suffering from a cold, rather than drunk on air.
But as they gathered for a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning, ministers were notably absent from the national airwaves with the exception of Mr Martin and a short quote from Justice Minister Dermot Ahern who was door-stepped going in the gate of Government Buildings.
Mr Martin had defended the Taoiseach at the parliamentary party meeting in Galway on Tuesday and by yesterday morning he had changed his tune, calling on Mr Cowen to “buckle down” and comparing international coverage of him to that of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Speaking before the Taoiseach’s apology yesterday evening, Mr Martin said: “This is not good, the way it’s playing out. I acknowledge that; there’s no question about that and the fact that it has gained so much momentum is not good.”
He told Newstalk Radio: “Clearly we have to learn lessons from the entire event and how we move on and so on from this.”
He said other leaders in Europe have had “challenges” similar to Mr Cowen. “There’s articles about Sarkozy every day and Berlusconi and others.”
While he stood by his assertion that the Taoiseach was nor drunk and defended the content of the interview, Mr Martin said: “The interview wasn’t the best interview he ever did.”
Mr Martin referred to Tony Blair’s book which talks about the era when spin began to dominate; “when politicians became obsessed with image and political correctness. And, in some respect, Brian Cowen is the antithesis of that, he doesn’t do spin, he’s not overly conscious with image. He’s into process.”
He said: “There’s a basic honesty about Brian Cowen that is admirable and when you are close up you admire that. There are sometimes you would say, ‘yeah, I prefer he did more image or did more spin’.”
The minister said Brian Cowen “will be the first to realise the fall-out from this and he will obviously reflect in terms of the challenges that now come from this and will now knuckle down.”
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