No party gifts for Taoiseach’s birthday

BRIAN COWEN turned 51 yesterday but there didn’t seem a whole lot to celebrate.

Ned O’Keeffe certainly wasn’t in the birthday mood. Once a loyal backbencher, the Co Cork man’s idea of a gift was to go on national radio urging the Taoiseach to quit and accusing him of making a mess of both the party and the country.

Then there was that unpleasant Anglo business raising its unwelcome head again. A new book featuring extensive interviews with Seán FitzPatrick revealed two more occasions in which the former Anglo boss was in contact with Mr Cowen in 2008 — the year everything went belly-up at the bank.

Neither Mr Cowen’s coalition partners, nor the opposition, were aware of these contacts — heralding another controversy for the beleaguered Taoiseach.

Adding to his woes, the spate of retirement announcements by his TDs continued unabated over the weekend.

Former junior minister Mary Wallace brought to 12 the number of Fianna Fáil TDs who have announced they will not contest the election. That number increases to 14 if you include two former ministers who have already gone — Jim McDaid and Martin Cullen.

Mr Cowen still has more TDs than he would have had candles on his cake yesterday — but it’s becoming a close-run thing.

At this rate, Mr Cowen will be lucky to have 51 TDs going into the election and, according to Ned O’Keeffe at least, could have as few as 12 coming out of it.

That sounds an exaggeration but the result certainly will be bad and Mr Cowen will fall on his sword after the election, if he makes it that far.

His political career will effectively be over at the ripe old age of 51 — even if he soldiers on as a TD just to make up the numbers for the party’s sake.

But, at least, there was one political gift yesterday — not from his own lot but from Fine Gael.

In Fianna Fáil’s eyes at least, Enda Kenny is the gift that just keeps on giving — and yesterday was another prime example.

The headline news should have been about Mr Cowen and Sean Fitzpatrick. Instead, it was about the Fine Gael website fiasco, which saw the site fall victim to hackers and the personal information of up to 2,000 contributors to the site breached.

Whoever said the opposition are the enemies?

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