Taoiseach to face disgruntled backbenchers after poll crash
Irate Fianna Fail backbenchers will have a chance to criticise the Taoiseach to his face tomorrow night when he chairs a parliamentary party meeting following an opinion poll that showed support for Fianna Fail crashing to 24pc.
The Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting will be Brian Cowen's first opportunity to face his backbenchers after a wave of private mutterings and some public criticism.
It is also an opportunity for backbenchers to put on record their private and scathing attacks or to back off and let the reshuffle fall-out finally rest.
Former junior minister John McGuinness, who last week called on the Taoiseach to resign, has pledged to raise the issue of the reshuffle and leadership. But it remains unclear whether backbenchers will rally around him, in the absence of one of the future leadership contenders signalling they are ready to lead an offensive.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin, who yesterday publicly backed the Taoiseach after days of criticism over the reshuffle, conceded there was a communications issue.
"I accept Fianna Fail is in difficulty. . . There are issues about communication which have been alluded to which I would accept. There are issues about our internal party structures in terms of facilitating backbenchers," he said.
The minister, who has been billed as a future Fianna Fail leader, said Mr Cowen does not see the necessity of using every media opportunity for a "communication advantage" or for public relations.
"To be fair to Brian Cowen, he is as he is. It's clear, I think, he doesn't engage with the modern nature of communication politics," Mr Martin said.
He said the party would take a "very significant hammering" if the poll figures were repeated in a general election, but pledged support to Mr Cowen.
Backbenchers are billing the meeting -- scheduled to take place only hours after the banking announcements -- as a potential gamechanger.
"If the Taoiseach mounts a staunch defence, that could draw a line in the sand. Unless one of the alternative leaders makes a strike, this whole thing is going to die off," one backbencher said. Another claimed Mr Cowen was in a "pretty vulnerable position".
The meeting takes place as yesterday's Red C 'Sunday Business Post' poll showed Fine Gael up one point to 35pc, Fianna Fail down three to 24pc, Labour staying at 17pc, Sinn Fein up one to 10pc, Independents up one to 9pc and the Greens unchanged at 5pc. More damaging for Fianna Fail were findings that 27pc believe Mr Cowen has not been a good Taoiseach. Just 29pc believe he can lead Ireland out of recession.
- Meanwhile, Carlow-Kilkenny's Bobby Aylward, who is annoyed that his constituency rival and Green Party deputy leader Mary White obtained a junior ministry, last night threatened to vote against upcoming Green Party legislation. The party will be attempting to push through legislation on stag hunting, corporate donations and local planning.
He and many other Fianna Fail backbenchers have complained about the Greens gaining a second junior ministerial position while Fianna Fail saw only one of its backbenchers promoted to junior minister.