Friday 9 December 2016

Fianna Fail fears Cowen won't stand in the election

Fionnan Sheahan and Eoghan MacConnell

Published 24/01/2011 | 05:00

Taoiseach Brian Cowen chats with former RTE commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh at yesterday's
Leinster club football final in Portlaoise
Taoiseach Brian Cowen chats with former RTE commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh at yesterday's Leinster club football final in Portlaoise

FIANNA Fail is bracing itself for the Taoiseach to announce that he won't be running in the general election in the wake of his resignation as party leader.

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Mr Cowen yesterday refused to be drawn on whether he would contest the election in the Laois-Offaly constituency, where he is a massive vote-getter for the party.

Mr Cowen said he will take advice from family and friends before deciding whether to stand in the election.

But the local party organisation would be devastated if Mr Cowen did not run.

Long-time friend and colleague, junior minister John Moloney urged him to clear up any doubt surrounding his intentions.

He warned that it would be a major blow to the party if he was not on the ticket.

Thanks to Mr Cowen's poll-topping skills, Fianna Fail currently holds three seats in the constituency.

Speaking in his home town of Clara yesterday, Mr Cowen would only say he would reflect on his future.

"I mean yesterday I made one big decision. I said that our convention is due on February 1 so obviously we will make our mind up before then," he said.

Family

On Saturday, Mr Cowen said it was his intention to run in the general election, but he was far from certain yesterday.

"I wouldn't like to speculate on it at this stage. I just want to talk to a few people, just take a few days and try and see what's the best thing to do.

"One of the things that's come into play, I suppose, in the last couple of days is you know, with politicians I mean -- whether people realise it or not and probably it's not the perceived wisdom -- you spend a long time in your life making decisions which are not necessarily with your own self in mind," he added.

Mr Cowen said he had to listen to his family in such a situation.

"So it's the first time in a long time, you know, where you can't just simply look at this in a narrow political sense. But I'm not suggesting one way or the other, I am just trying to give you an honest assessment of where I am -- where my mind is today."

Twenty-four hours earlier, Mr Cowen insisted his decision to resign as Fianna Fail leader was purely his own and that he was not forced out by senior party figures.

Following his botched reshuffle, Mr Cowen went back on his statement of a week earlier in which he said it would be damaging to have two lines of authority -- a Taoiseach separate from the Fianna Fail leader.

He claimed he had no regrets and took responsibility for his actions but did not apologise for the damage caused to the Government and Fianna Fail by the week's events.

After discussing the matter with his family, Mr Cowen caved in to the pressure of the sustained calls from within the party for him to stand down.

"At this crucial time, when decisions and choices have to be made by the people about the future of our country, the focus should be on what policies the political parties are offering rather than on the narrow focus of personality politics.

"I am concerned that renewed internal criticism of my leadership of Fianna Fail is deflecting attention from these important debates," he said.

Handling

"Therefore, taking everything into account and having discussed the matter with my family, I have decided on my own counsel to step down as leader of Fianna Fail."

Before yesterday's events, Mr Cowen said that he planned to stay on as head of the Government until the proposed March 11 poll.

Defending his handling of the ministerial resignations, Mr Cowen said he felt he had a duty to name new ministers.

"It was not a cynical move by me. It was me taking a political act," he claimed.

"I'm not looking back with regrets," he said. "I've made a big decision today. We are talking about the future of our country. We will have plenty of time to talk about the past."

Mr Cowen declined to name who he believed should succeed him. The Government would do its business despite his resignation, he said.

"We will continue to manage the situation and people need to be assured of that," he added.

Irish Independent

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