Cowen defiant about time as Taoiseach in rare public appearance

Justin Kelly

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Justin Kelly

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justin.kelly@iconicnews.ie

Brian Cowen

Cowen was speaking at a function as he was conferred with an honorary doctorate

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen delivered a defiant speech during a conferral function in his honour at Dublin Castle on Wednesday, July 26. 

The Clara native made the rare public appearance as he was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from the National University of Ireland. He delivered a 50-minute speech in which he spoke at length about his time as Taoiseach and the turbulent vista that emerged at that time.

While he did express regret about the economic crisis and the 250,000 job losses that occurred on his watch, but besides that, he cut a defiant figure as he essentially defended the "unpopular" actions taken in terms of policies to rectify the situation. He described his government as “decisive.”

"We knew that the required action would understandably be more unpopular than almost any policies in recent Irish political history and that this threatened the survival of the Government and our hopes in an election," he said. 

"However, we also know that to avoid taking the decisions would mean that future recovery could be put off by decades," he added.

Without naming parties, he made reference to the fact that it was easy for the opposition at the time to take political advantage from the bleak outlook facing the Fianna Fail government.

“Those in power take responsibility; those out of power can succumb to expressing the populist soft options," he said.

He continued in this vein to argue that the policies implemented by his government during the economic crisis “laid the foundations” for future growth.

Cowen also pointed out that when he was Minister for Finance in 2007, opposition parties chastised him from the benches for bringing in a “measly” budget which “didn’t give people enough” and brought about what they labelled “totally inadequate” spending.

Cowen was Taoiseach from May 2008 to March 2011, and oversaw the banking bailout received from the Troika in 2010. Previously, he had served as Minister for Finance from 2004 to 2008 when he took over from Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach.

He presided over the country as the Irish economy began to collapse and hugely unpopular austerity policies were implemented as part of the bailout programme. He resigned from political life with the collapse of that Fianna Fail government in 2011. 

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