The former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has opened his evidence to the banking inquiry to say he is sorry for the hardship and distress caused by the policies that had to be introduced to deal with the financial crisis. Mr Cowen says the Government he led dealt with the crisis to the best of its ability. He is appearing for two days at the inquiry. Today will deal with his period as Minister for Finance between 2004 and 2008, and next week will deal with his period as Taoiseach. In his opening statement this morning he has defended the bank guarantee introduced by him as Taoiseach on September 29th 2008. “In terms of the bank guarantee I believe it was the most decisive step that the government could take on that night to deal with the problem” he said. “It was clear that we were on our own”. “We had one shot at it; if we did not get it right Ireland – we were told – would be set back 25 years”. “We had to go with the best information available to us at the time” he added.