PM's voicemail: call my predecessor

DUBLIN Tue Aug 19, 2008 10:17am EDT

Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen speaks during a breakfast before ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, July 16, 2008. REUTERS/Chip East

Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen speaks during a breakfast before ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, July 16, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Chip East

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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ever wished your predecessor was there to take the flak for the problems you inherited?

Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen may have the answer.

Three months after Cowen took office, callers to two numbers for the prime minister's office listed in Dublin's telephone directory were still being redirected to the previous incumbent.

"Thank you for calling the office of the Taoiseach (prime minister), however if you wish to call Bertie Ahern's constituency office, please ring ..." a recorded message instructed callers.

Cowen became prime minister in May after Ahern stepped down amid mounting questions over his complex personal finances.

Ahern said he was "extremely unlucky" to get caught up in the corruption investigation, but commentators have described the timing of his departure as a stroke of genius.

He quit a month before a referendum in which Irish voters ignored government pleas and rejected the European Union's reform plans, throwing the bloc into diplomatic turmoil.

Meanwhile the country's once booming economy is now on the brink of its first recession in a quarter of a century.

(Reporting by Paul Hoskins, Editing by Meg Clothier)

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