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Brian Cowen wins Fianna Fail confidence vote

Taoiseach Brian Cowen tonight retained control of the Fianna Fail party after winning a motion of confidence in his leadership.

Mr Cowen saw off a challenge from Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and will head the party in the upcoming general election which has been penciled in for March.

In a brief statement a party official said: "The Fianna Fail parliamentary party has voted confidence in the leadership of An Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD."

Seventy-one TDs voted in a secret ballot after a near three hour meeting in the party rooms in Leinster House, Dublin.

Mr Cowen had retained majority support of the Cabinet ahead of the vote.

Mr Martin is to stand down as minister following the Taoiseach's victory.

Government Chief Whip John Curran confirmed the result.

"Clearly this brings an end to these issues. The party will be united behind Brian Cowen as Taoiseach," Mr Curran said.

PA Media