Minister claims colleagues share his concerns
FOREIGN Minister Micheal Martin last night insisted a number of Cabinet ministers were concerned about Taoiseach Brian Cowen's leadership of Fianna Fail.
The leader of the revolt against Mr Cowen predicted tonight's vote of confidence would be defeated.
Mr Martin conducted a blitz of media interviews and spoke with Fianna Fail TDs ahead of the crunch vote to decide if Mr Cowen leads the party into the general election.
The minister said if the confidence vote was won by the Taoiseach, he anticipated continuing in Cabinet, even though his resignation remained on the table.
He said he was not trying to hang on as a minister. "For me, personally, the easiest thing would be to be allowed resign. I am not out to maximise the damage to the party.
"That is not what this process is about. It is about the future of Fianna Fail -- that we can fight a general election campaign with a fire in our belly and look forward to a vibrant future," he said.
"I offered my resignation and, as far as I am concerned, it is still on the table."
Mr Martin said he had reluctantly come to the conclusion a change of leader was best for the party. "We are people that have worked together successfully for a very long time. But I agreed with the people that had come to me that a change would be best.
"A strong opposition is vital. Look at the opinion polls -- they are clearly pointing in one direction and you have to be realistic in relation to that.
"Irrespective of what happens, I think a Dail that would be made up of the opposition and Sinn Fein deputies would not be in the best interests (of the country)," he said.
"The right policies would not be pursued in terms of the policies required to get this country out of economic recession," he added.
Mr Martin said he was "greatly heartened" by the support he had received from party members over the past 24 hours -- and it reinforced his belief Fianna Fail was desperate for a change.
The minister said Fianna Fail had taken decisions that were in the country's best interests and was paying a price in the opinion polls as a result.