It happened during a speech that Brian Cowen gave to the Dublin Economics Workshop Conference in Kenmare. It came as a huge shock, especially given Cowen's previous form.
For whenever Cowen goes into a new ministry he goes 100% native. Thus when he was in Foreign Affairs he became expert at uttering such roll-of-the-tongue sentences as:
As currently drafted, it sets out a holistic approach to security, going beyond purely military aspects. It reflects a shared view held by the Member States that global security can only be achieved through collective action by the international community as a whole. That is why support for effective multilateralism and the role of the United Nations is at the very heart of the strategy.
Since moving to Finance, he has shifted the prose and his speeches now sound like something from an economics lecturer who's bored with his job. To quote:
In relation to overall fiscal policy, more modest economic growth will result in a 'normalisation' in the growth of resources available to Government and it is essential that expectations regarding expenditure adapt accordingly...
So what's the shock then? Brace yourselves! Are you sitting comfortably?
Well, he told a joke.
A joke. A real joke. One that was actually funny. That was even capable of making you laugh.
You see, for all his ability and bruiser qualities, Cowen also has a knack of going so native in his Department that he can bore you to death with long-winded civil servanteese and meaningless twaddle.
Obviously, he lost the run of himself for once last weekend. And for the record here's the joke:
The former Us President Ronald Reagan was well known for telling funny stories and... I found myself reminded of one os his stories.
The story begins with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev on the reviewing stand at Lenin's tomb, surrounded by underlings, watching the May Day parade. The Soviet Union's full military might is there on display.
First come the elite troops, impressive soldiers, marching in absolute lockstep. right behind them are lines of state of the art artillery and tanks. Then come the nuclear missiles - it's an awesome show of strength.
But after the missiles come a small straggle of civilians, unkempt, shabbily dressed, utterly out of place. An aide rushes up to Brezhnev and begs forgiveness.
'Comrade Secretary, my apologies. I do not know who these people are or how they've come into our parade.'
'Don't be concerned, Comrade,' replies Brezhnev. 'I am responsible for them. they are our economists, and you have no idea how dangerous they can be!'