Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Monumental cock-ups don't much bigger than Fianna Fail's today and last night. There hasn't been such a massive gaffe since, well, Jim O'Keeffe made his first (and last) appearance at a FG press briefing.

This sad tale for FF began on RTE's Q and A last night.

During a row over the Government's colocation proposal Rabbitte said:

"Nor can (the Government) tell us even up to tonight how much will the tax breaks cost when when tax is foregone."

Cowen had not given this figure before.

His opening marks were singularly unfortunate:

"The FOI stuff that you are getting are out of date unfortunately like Jim O’Keeffe’s figures."

I'll come back to them in a sec.

He then went onto say.

"In relation to the question about the relocation, the fact is that gross it’s about 70m a year for seven years and net of buoyancy after that it’s about E40 million."

His difficulty was this: The figure he gave out was wrong.

And it was obvious today that none of the three senior ministers at the FF conference had seen Cowen the night before. They kept on quoting the E40m net figure and were completely snookered when pressed by the media on the discrepancy between this figure and that put out by Cowen the night before.

Eventually a note was passed up but the Ministers were unable to decipher it to the satisfaction of the press corps.

And then Colin Hunt, Cowen's special adviser, intervened to explain the figures. He accepted that Cowen had been incorrect to state E70m the night before. Hunt explained.

“He said 70m and he said 40m net; it should have been 57m and 40m net.”

The three FF Ministers were - as they say in Dublin - 'scarlah with embarrasment'.

Oops. What a blunder! It made Cowen look like a bit of a dolt too. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. He was the guy who had led the charge against FG and Enda's contract.

On Q and A the previous night, not 30 seconds earlier Cowen had been scoffing at Jim O'Keeffe whose blunder at a FG press briefing on crime had backfooted Enda Kenny during his TV showdown with Bertie Ahern.

Now, Cowen himself obviously didn't have the right document to hand.

Bertie had to admit on Six-One News - where, boy, did Bryan Dobson give him a grilling - that:

"He said the wrong figure"

The opposition parties sniffed revenge and clearly took great pleasure in its moment of payback time.

For here was the man who berated Jim O'Keeffe having his own Jim O'Keeffe moment. And here was the party which condemned Fine Gael for using unelected advisers rather than politicians to run its press briefings now having to have three of its most senior ministers baled out by an, erm, unelected adviser.

Hubris, anyone?

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