TDs turn up heat on Cowen
Backbenchers speak out against leader as Fianna Fail hits record poll low
Published 22/11/2010 | 05:00
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen is facing more threats to his leadership from disgruntled backbenchers in the wake of the IMF bailout.
Fianna Fail TDs have been put under further pressure as their party hit a record low in the opinion polls -- with genuine concerns of a loss of 40 seats in an unprecedented voter backlash.
But despite the rumblings, there is no sign of any of Mr Cowen's potential successors being willing to challenge him.
And the party's disgruntled backbenchers are adamant they will not act before the crucial Budget vote on December 7.
Fianna Fail Meath East TD Thomas Byrne said people thinking about mounting a leadership heave against Mr Cowen had to put the interests of the country before the party "at this stage".
"But we'll have to start thinking about the party at some point in the future," he told the Irish Independent.
The latest 'Sunday Business Post' Red C Poll showed that Fianna Fail's support had dropped by one point to 17pc -- another record low for the party in a Red C poll.
Fianna Fail TDs who expressed dissatisfaction over the weekend with how the bailout crisis had been handled by Mr Cowen and his ministers included Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward and Cork South Central TD Michael McGrath.
Fianna Fail Cork North Central TD Noel O'Flynn is also understood to be on the verge of speaking out about his dissatisfaction. Mr Cowen made a desperate attempt to rally the troops ahead of the Donegal South-West by-election on Thursday by travelling to the constituency at the weekend.
He told a gathering of more than 400 party faithful to regain their self-belief and to urge the electorate to "stick with this party".
Fianna Fail national executive member Michael O'Brien, who has canvassed for party TD Mary O'Rourke, said on his Facebook page that nearly every person in Fianna Fail is now ashamed "of this once great party". "The tiny, tiny print of the Fianna Fail name on (by-election candidate) Brian O Domhnaill's election posters and loads of local candidates in last year's election tells it all.
"What does it say? We have become embarrassed with our brand," he said.
Another party backbencher said last night that it was realistic to mount a heave against Mr Cowen in January -- and indicated his preference for Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Mary Hanafin. "She's a superb communicator and she could be the first woman Taoiseach," he said.
But a senior party TD said while it was true that every TD was worried about his or her seat, there was nothing serious happening yet in relation to Mr Cowen's leadership.
Fianna Fail Dublin North TD Michael Kennedy last night said it was time for Mr Cowen to deliver a state-of-the-nation address.
"That is more urgent given what has happened in the past week," he said.
The latest Red C opinion poll showed that support for Fine Gael was up one point to 33pc, while Labour was unchanged at 27pc. Sinn Fein achieved its best result in the poll for 18 months with a two-point gain to 11pc. The Green Party dropped back by one point to 3pc.
Over the weekend, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny slammed the Government for the "untruths and stark lies" of last week and repeated his call for an immediate general election.