Cowen: I will learn lessons over radio row

Taoiseach Brian Cowen vowed today to be more careful about his social life after a live radio interview sparked controversy over his leadership.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen vowed today to be more careful about his social life after a live radio interview sparked controversy over his leadership.

As the fall-out over the broadcast entered its fourth day, Mr Cowen said he had learned lessons from the incident and would leave social events earlier in future.

The Taoiseach also said he was sorry if any hurt was caused by his impersonation of Irish golfer Philip Walton during his Fianna Fáil party’s “think-in” in Galway.

The Ryder Cup winner wrote to Mr Cowen seeking an explanation of why he was mimicked during a now notorious get-together in the hotel bar, hours before the controversial broadcast.

“It’s important when you are Taoiseach (that) the dignity of the office is upheld at all times and I would hate for anyone to think I wouldn’t take that aspect of my job seriously,” he said.

“Such is the atmosphere of politics today, in the way people interpret things and how things can go off on a tangent very quickly, I’ll be a bit more cautious in terms of that aspect of how I conduct my social life.”

He said there was a balance to be struck between being himself and upholding his public duties and responsibilities.

Mr Cowen was accused by a senior Opposition spokesman of sounding halfway between drunk and hungover on a Tuesday morning interview on Ireland’s most listened-to radio programme, RTE’s Morning Ireland.

It later emerged he had been enjoying a late night session until 3.30am that morning in The Blazers bar at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway after the first night of his party’s two-day get-together.

Mr Cowen insisted the night was not unwholesome or raucous but that he had learned not to find himself in the same position at future events.

“We’ll be trying to make sure that, while enjoying the conviviality of the company, that I’ll leave sooner,” he said.

The Taoiseach said he would respond to any correspondence from Mr Walton, who he described as among Ireland’s “great sporting heroes”.

He also dismissed speculation of a planned backbencher revolt against his leadership.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan claimed the controversy was now over and the Government would press ahead with dealing with the economic crisis.

“The matter is closed now. The matter has been dealt with comprehensively,” he said.

Earlier, Environment Minister and leader of the junior coalition partner Green Party John Gormley said Mr Cowen was having an “off day” when he was interviewed at 8.50am on Tuesday morning.

But he insisted it was time to move on from the fall-out which has caused huge embarrassment for the Taoiseach and the Government.

Mr Gormley said Mr Cowen had made a “fairly fulsome apology” and the public now wanted the coalition to get back to resurrecting the country’s fortunes.

“The Taoiseach had an off day, he acknowledged that, he apologised,” he said.

At the start of his Green Party’s think-in in Co Carlow, Mr Gormley said dwelling on the fall-out of of the radio broadcast was not helping the economy.

“I know politics is a sort of blood sport and I know we like to sometimes talk about it in a jovial way, the gossip, et cetera, but I have to ask myself as someone who is in the midst of this crisis, as are so many people, is it going to get us out of this particular mess that we’re in?” he said.

“And the answer is clearly no.”

More in this section