Cowen gets reprieve from backbench showdown
THE crunch meeting in which rebel Fianna Fail TDs are to confront Taoiseach Brian Cowen on his leadership and conservative reshuffle has been postponed until tomorrow.
The weekly meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party was scheduled to take place at 5.30 this evening, but it was put back until tomorrow afternoon because of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's major announcement on a rescue plan for the banks.
Mr Cowen is expected to be confronted by Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness, who last week publicly called for the Taoiseach to resign.
Also expected to voice their concerns are Mr McGuinness's constituency colleagues MJ Nolan and Bobby Aylward, as well as Waterford's Brendan Kenneally.
But despite the moves of last week, when TDs were actively sounding their colleagues out to gauge their level of discontent, it appears the issues around Mr Cowen's suitability to lead the party will be raised by Mr McGuinness and only one or two other traditional dissidents.
TDs who were last week privately voicing their frustration with Mr Cowen last night said they listened to the party grassroots in their constituencies over the weekend. Some who were advocating the removal of Mr Cowen now seem to have reversed their positions.
They said the criticism from grassroots activists mostly focused on Mr Cowen's communications skills rather than his leadership.
One younger TD, who last week voiced his "deep" disillusionment with Mr Cowen, said his constituency activists were unhappy with the Taoiseach's ability to talk to the public.
"They want someone better than John McGuinness to stand up," the TD said.
Another TD said: "Unless a senior minister takes him on, I don't see it spreading beyond the usual few."
And the fact that no credible challenger to Mr Cowen has come forward has effectively killed off any rebellion.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern last night dismissed talk of a backbencher revolt. Mr Ahern said the Taoiseach had to put the country first in taking his recent decisions and party political considerations would be dealt with later.
The minister said he had full confidence in Mr Cowen and expected him to lead the party into the next election.