Cowen lashes out at Kenny 'distractions' as party closes ranks
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night took a swipe at Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny for constantly and wrongly predicting the demise of his Government and the coming of a general election.
The embattled Taoiseach insisted he would lead Fianna Fail into a general election in 2012 after Mr Kenny again claimed the Government would be gone in six months.
More ministers came out and backed Mr Cowen yesterday but some Fianna Fail backbenchers were last night threatening to create further rumblings later in the week.
Some of the party's rebels are waiting on weekend opinion polls to gauge their next move against Mr Cowen.
One rebel said Mr Cowen was "damaged goods", while another claimed some backbenchers were preparing to "take matters into their own hands" because senior ministers had not made a move against him.
But Mr Cowen's shoulder-to-shoulder appearance with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan on Monday night appears to have calmed many backbenchers within the party.
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last night claimed the entire controversy surrounding Mr Cowen's infamous 'Morning Ireland' interview had been a "storm in a teacup", while Health Minister Mary Harney said Mr Cowen had her full and total support.
Hitting out at Mr Kenny last night, Mr Cowen said the Fine Gael leader was announcing an imminent general election every month because he did not have anything to say about policies.
"I think Enda has made that prediction about four times since I became leader of the party. He seems to have nothing else to speak about. And he doesn't seem to have a credible position on the issue of the day. We don't have that luxury," Mr Cowen said.
Mr Kenny was interested in "distractions" rather than the real business of the day, Mr Cowen said. He added that the Government was committed to running its full term to 2012 and he ruled out any general election sooner than that.
Speaking about the 'Morning Ireland' radio controversy for the first time, Ms Harney said Mr Cowen had her full and total support. She said he was a fantastic chairman of the Cabinet and totally engaged across all departments.
"I think the events of last week are behind us. We have to move forward and return this country to economic growth. That's what I'm focused on," Ms Harney said.
"I wish we could all move away from it, yes. It's a week ago. The news moves rapidly and certainly in relation to this matter, I hope it will move on."
Asked if she had any concerns that Mr Cowen's lifestyle prevented him from doing his job, Ms Harney said: "No, I do not."
Earlier, Mr Kenny claimed the controversy surrounding the morning interview was a crisis of Mr Cowen's own making. He said he hoped the Taoiseach "recovers and doesn't get locked into that situation again".
And he predicted that, regardless of what happened in Fianna Fail this week or next week, the Government would be gone in six months.