Taoiseach rubbishes rumours of Lenihan rift
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen insists he has a good "personal and political relationship" with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, despite persistent rumours of a rift between the pair.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Cowen moved to quash suggestions of poor relations with Mr Lenihan as the Government faces a crucial test to restore confidence in Ireland's battered economy.
The Taoiseach claimed the rumours about a rift were "auld nonsense".
"My personal and political relationship with Brian Lenihan is very good. And it has to be between a Taoiseach and a Minister for Finance," Mr Cowen said.
"I am very supportive. He is doing a tremendous job in very difficult circumstances and as leader of the Government, my job is to work with colleagues and certainly I work closely with him on many of these issues and we discuss many of these approaches," he said.
"That's the way it would have to be, sure, it couldn't be any other way. So I don't know what that's about (the rumours). That's a load of auld nonsense," the Taoiseach added.
After being overlooked repeatedly by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Mr Cowen promoted Mr Lenihan to the finance portfolio when he became Taoiseach.
The pair have worked closely on the banking, economic and public finances crises that have engulfed the country over the past two years.
But over the past year, there has been widespread speculation about rows between the Taoiseach and the Finance Minister.
A year ago, when the Government was on the brink of a pre-budget deal with public sector unions to prevent pay cuts, there was substantial speculation Mr Cowen and Mr Lenihan were at loggerheads.
The differences of opinions between the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance were certainly palpable at the time.
Mr Cowen's officials were believed to be pushing hard to get an agreement, while Mr Lenihan's officials were more reticent.
The subsequent agreement of the Croke Park deal on public sector reform has also been followed by Mr Lenihan calling for a broader range of efficiencies.
In recent times, the speculation was centred on Mr Cowen's leadership and suggestions that Mr Lenihan might take over as Taoiseach.
But Fianna Fail would have been faced with a divisive leadership battle if Taoiseach Brian Cowen had been persuaded to resign.
Mr Lenihan would not get a clean run for the leadership of the party by his rivals.
However, none of the party's heavyweights mooted as replacements for the Taoiseach were willing to head up a heave against Mr Cowen.
Mr Lenihan was believed to have been willing to become Taoiseach, despite his cancer treatment.