The Taoiseach’s real crime

Taoiseach Brian CowenGiven the furore over Brian Cowen’s interview on RTE’s Morning Ireland and the ensuing media meltdown, one might be forgiven for assuming that our Prime Minister might have more quickly understood the nature of the difficulty in which he found himself.
However, given the Taoiseach’s initial reaction in describint the tweet as “pathetic and pitiful” and his very late apology for not giving his “best performance” on Morning Ireland, it would appear that he only came to this understanding after considerable rumination on the matter and, one assumes, much prompting on the part of his media advisors.
So, what was the Taoiseach’s crime? Simon Coveney, the opposition TD whose tweet became headline news, did not accuse Brian Cowen of either being drunk or of having a hangover, but of *sounding* halfway between the two. Brian Cowen’s initial response – and those of most of his Ministers “methinks protested too much” when they lept to the defence of “a new low in Politics”, i.e. the suggestion that the Taoiseach was either drunk or hungover.
As Brian Cowen initially dismissed criticism of his interview, Micheal Martin was the only Government Minister to acknowledge that the Taoiseach’s performance was less than should be expected of country’s leader. His cabinet colleagues, defaulted to defending the Taoiseach, come hell or high water. Their knee-jerk reaction displayed their shared lack of understanding as to what the Taoiseach’s real failure was that morning.
It really doesn’t matter whether the Brian Cowen was drunk, hungover, hoarse from singing, exhausted from running the country, or any other possible explanation for his poor performance on Morning Ireland. What is important is that the Taoiseach thought it acceptable to attempt to communicate with a significant portion of the electorate in a manner which was less than acceptable and without explanation.
When Cathal Mac Coille thanked the Taoiseach for “coming over before your breakfast”, Brian Cowen should have made reference to his poor voice and, perhaps, explained it as the consequence of singing the night before. Any comments subsequently made about the quality of the interview could be answered by the Taoiseach’s own explanation. The issue would never have become the media sensation that developed later.
This was an appaling communications gaffe, made worse by an inability to recognise it as such. This was the real crime – not the possible cause of the Taoiseach’s performance, or lack of it.

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