Cowen era draws to a close

IN an election supplement in the Offaly Express on the eve of the 2007 poll, the then Minister for Finance Brian Cowen was effusive concerning his outlook on the economy, and his own role in managing it; "I said I would do nothing to disrupt the market, i didn't say I wouldn't do anything.

IN an election supplement in the Offaly Express on the eve of the 2007 poll, the then Minister for Finance Brian Cowen was effusive concerning his outlook on the economy, and his own role in managing it; "I said I would do nothing to disrupt the market, i didn't say I wouldn't do anything.

As Minister for Finance you have to be careful what you say and do, so as to not disrupt the market. We watch this like a hawk, it's our job."

Disrupting the market at the height of the boom might have seemed unpalatable contemporaneously, and certainly political foolhardy, but what a difference it might have made to the way subsequent events unfolded.

Of course hindsight is an easy tool now, but Brian Cowen's leadership effectively ended last week amidst financial, economic and political

In an election supplement in the Leinster Express on the eve of the 2007 poll, the then Minister for Finance Brian Cowen was effusive concerning his outlook on the economy, and his own role in managing it.

"I said I would do nothing to disrupt the market, i didn't say I wouldn't do anything. As Minister for Finance you have to be careful what you say and do, so as to not disrupt the market. We watch this like a hawk, it's our job."

Disrupting the market at the height of the boom might have seemed unpalatable contemporaneously, and certainly political foolhardy, but what a difference it might have made to the way subsequent events unfolded.

Of course hindsight is an easy tool now, but Brian Cowen's leadership effectively ended last week amidst financial, economic and politicalwreckage on a scale few countries in the western hemisphere have ever witnessed before. It has been a truly ignominious end for a career which a few short years ago seemed headed for the stratosphere.

Cowen's political life, and particularly his later career in Finance and the Taoiseach's office will be littered with what ifs. Yes, he took the hard decisions as Taoiseach in an effort to address the public finances and the econonmy, but most of it was reactive and an effort to clean up the mess created by governments in which he was a central player.

Much good was done, and this tends to get lost amidst the flotsam of the disaster that has unfolded. The country's road infrastructure for example, has been upgraded to international standards, and Laois is a prime example of this.

Yet, history will record that it was on his watch that everything went wrong. Yes, there were the oft quoted external factors (Lehman Brothers), and lack of financial regulation, but nevertheless Cowen bears a large part of the responsbility as Minister for Finance.

The impact of failing to rein in the banks and their ludricous lending policies, and the subsequent blanket bank guarantee in September 2008, will be felt for years to come.

It now seems like an eternity from that sun soaked day in May 2008 when he was anointed Taoiseach, and basked in the glow of widespread adulation, especially from his native Offaly.

Ascending to the office of Taoiseach, Cowen promised much. He was viewed as a political figure of substance, a straight talking no nonsense character, who was a welcome relief following the Bertie Ahern years.

Yet, what no one realised at the time was that he had become a hostage to fortune, one created by his own, and his governments, actions. He became a victim of his own political legacy, a legacy the country is now struggling to cope with.