“From deep recession to tottering banks to strikes to the treacherous Hand of Gaul, neither Brian Cowen nor the citizenry of Ireland can seem to catch a break these days.” So runs the front page article of today’s Irish Independent, capturing the bleak mood of a crisis-wracked country that, one week after its controversial exit from the World Cup, is now experiencing the worst floods for decades. With a photo of Taoiseach Brian Cowen in wellington boots strolling the flood stricken town of Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, the Dublin daily evokes the “bite in the wind” and the “evening gloom” which sums up what the deeply unpopular leader may regard as his “annus horribilis”. Indeed, even when the rains ease off, Mr Cowen will have to contend with today’s public service strike, as part of a nationwide protest against the government’s forthcoming budget, which promises drastic cuts and little in the way of hope for a country afflicted this year with a huge deficit – over 12% of GDP – and 7.5% negative growth.