Irish Republican News · September 20, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Cowen walks a tightrope

The 26-County Prime Minister Brian Cowen has insisted he retains the full support of his Fianna Fail parliamentary party despite calls by some members for a meeting to discuss his leadership.

Cowen apologised last week for taking part in a semi-coherent morning radio interview which many people believed he had conducted while drunk or hung over. It followed a widely reported late night drinking session in Galway involving Cowen, senior party colleagues and members of the media.

The Taoiseach claimed he had been ‘hoarse’ during the interview but denied that his drinking habit had been responsible for the “poor performance”.

“I have the full support of parliamentary party, they support the Government, they know that we have a job to do and we have to get on with it.”

Mr Cowen said the party remains united and “maintained a wonderful discipline” .

In an unexpected press briefing in front of Government Buildings on Monday night, Mr Cowen declared his Fianna Fail party was united behind him and denied he was “in probation”.

Mr Cowen was joined by his Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, frequently identified in the media as his possible replacement.

“I’m speaking to the Irish people as Taoiseach,” he said.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that they have a Government that has a working stable majority, that will do its work as it has been doing it before.”

However, former government chief whip Tom Kitt said today “the time had come” for a new Fianna Fail leader as speculation mounted about Cowen’s position.

Speaking on Irish radio, Mr Kitt said the public wanted to connect with a leader and that was not happening with Mr Cowen.

“The time has come to move on to new leadership. Everyone out there understands the need for tough decisions. But equally they want people to create a climate of positivity,” he said.

There were also claims and denialz that Brian Lenihan is “mounting a coup” and “talking to backbenchers” about the leadership of Fianna Fail.

Earlier today, Mr Lenihan issued a statement in which he said: “The issue of the leadership doesn’t arise: there is no vacancy.”

A spokeswoman for the Minister said later he was focused exclusively on economic issues and had not been engaging in any moves to have Mr Cowen removed as party leader.

However, the Minister’s brother, Minister of State Conor Lenihan, refused to comment when asked about a claim by a party colleague that he had been contacting Fianna Fail TDs regarding Mr Cowen’s leadership.

Asked if he was loyal to Mr Cowen, the Minister of State said: “As a member of the Government, naturally I support the Taoiseach.”

Earlier, the Minister of State said: “We are very damaged by this particular controversy.”

He added: “We know there is a serious challenge to our party and to the authority and respect with which people hold the office of Taoiseach, so that is a serious issue and I expect both the Taoiseach and his colleagues to address that matter.”

Fianna Fail sources said no further developments were expected until the next round of opinion polls in coming weeks. One backbencher said that, if the figures were particularly bad, there would be immediate and serious implications for Mr Cowen’s leadership.

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