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Allies turn backs on Cowen

SUPPORT for Brian Cowen as leader of Fianna Fail was wavering last night as TDs who backed him in this week's confidence motion reconsidered their positions.

And a string of others who publicly backed Mr Cowen before Tuesday's vote would not answer calls yesterday or would not go on the record.

The shift in support among those who backed Mr Cowen could cast further doubts on his position as party leader, but a number of TDs said they were spending the weekend getting their election campaigns under way.


TDs also reported dismay in the party grassroots over Thursday's cabinet reshuffle fiasco, with one minister saying that Fianna Fail activists "to a man and woman" were raging.

It came as leadership challenger Micheal Martin asked TDs to reflect on Mr Cowen's position over the weekend and his constituency colleague in Cork South Central, Michael McGrath, called on Mr Cowen to step down.

Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Kelly said he was meeting his local organisation on Monday and would outline his views afterwards.

Kildare South's Sean O'Fearghail conceded "there is a sense of bewilderment at what happened" and said it was up to the Taoiseach to decide what to do.

"I think we're all deeply disappointed by what has happened over the last few days," Mr O'Fearghail said

But he said he thought it was too late to change leader and would support the Taoiseach if there was another vote.

Junior minister Martin Mansergh said that "not withstanding my dismay at what happened", he would continue to support Mr Cowen.

Waterford TD Brendan Kenneally said his vote for the Taoiseach would now be in doubt and described the last few days as "a disaster".

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"I was fully supportive of the Taoiseach last week but now I'm not so sure," he said last night.

Donegal North East's Niall Blaney said he was still standing by Mr Cowen, and laid the blame for the Cabinet reshuffle fiasco at feet of the Greens.

Mr Blaney said Mr Cowen had already won the leadership vote and people should just get on with working toward the election.

Dublin North's Darragh O'Brien, long regarded as a loyal ally of Mr Cowen, said he would have to reflect on the events of the last few days.

"I'm seriously thinking about what the best thing to do at the moment," he said. Junior minister Dara Calleary, who was tipped to be elevated to Cabinet, would not say how he would vote and neither did Clare's Timmy Dooley.

Meath West's Johnny Brady, who has always been very loyal to the Taoiseach, said things had "completely changed in the last 36 hours".

"We (local members) are very annoyed at what has happened," Mr Brady. "I voted for that man, we got a few days good running and then this happened."

John Browne, chairman of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party, said he was sticking by the Taoiseach.

Dublin South West's Charlie O'Connor agreed with Mr Martin's suggestion that TDs reflect over the weekend but said he still supported Mr Cowen.

A number of deputies, such as Cavan-Monaghan's Margaret Conlon and Tipperary North's Maire Hoctor, did not return calls.

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