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Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen Was Not Drunk, but it Doesn't Seem to Matter

A drunken Irish Prime Minister story, true or false, makes for good copy. So does a disgruntled member of the public literally dancing on a former Prime Minister's grave.

Such is the venom in political life in Ireland these days that those stories have captured the imagination and caught fire on the Internet.

In the first instance, current Prime Minister Brian Cowen played to the stereotype when he showed up on an early morning radio show allegedly under the weather.

In the second Vincent Keaney, a disgruntled former lottery winner, YouTubed himself dancing on the grave of former leader Charles Haughey, who many blame for the rampant corruption in Irish life that brought down the Celtic Tiger. The video went viral.

But back to Cowen first.

He was in Galway at a meeting of his parliamentary party, and it is de rigueur to have a drink or two or three with the party faithful on such occasions.

Cowen has a reputation as a big drinker, but despite all the hints and winks in the media, he has never given any appearance in public of being inebriated.

He is known as great company, a brilliant mimic, and partial to a verse or two of this favorite song, the "Offaly Rover," when the night draws on.

On Monday night he was in flying form. He hosted a party for media and fellow politicians. As the night wore on he sang "The Lakes of Ponchetrain," did a vicious imitation of several leading lights in Irish life and rolled off to bed at 3:30 a.m., seemingly none the worse for wear.

The next morning was a different story of course.

Having listened to the tape and knowing Cowen reasonably well, I can say the following;

Was he drunk? No, I really don't think so. Hungover? Likely or so it seemed, but that is not a crime.

His voice was hoarse, his command of language uncertain, but if it wasn't Cowen then no one would have noticed.

That is because the public perception of Cowen is that he likes to drink too much and an opposition spokesman, Simon Coveney, seeing the opportunity, quickly tweeted that Cowen seemed to be under the weather.

The floodgates opened.

A lot of the pent-up anger at what has happened to the Irish economy and to people's living standards seemed to coalesce around the Cowen incident.

All day the Internet and radio talk shows were burning up with indignant voters demanding Cowen resign or hold an election.

The mood was not helped by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan stating that at least $4 billion in cuts would have to be made in the upcoming budget.

This comes at a time when the richest of the rich are having their debts erased by the government agency that took over all the bad bank loans to save the country from bankruptcy.

Irish taxpayers now know, as they watch their sons and daughters emigrating once again, that they will be paying the cost for the property speculators, flim-flam men and rotten bankers who destroyed the system.

As for the Keaney/Haughey incident, again he won many plaudits for literally dancing on the grave of Haughey who many now see as the devil incarnate for creating the corrupt crony culture that has devastated Ireland.

There is anger, deep and dark, in the Irish psyche right now towards politicians, especially those from the governing Fianna Fail party. It even extends to their past leaders, as well as to the current one. There is a whiff of revolution in the air.

These are indeed strange times, as Brian Cowen is discovering.