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Cowen facing fresh challenge from within FF

A number of high-profile backbench TDs, including former ministers, have openly signalled their appetite for a fresh heave against Mr Cowen in the wake of the political turmoil.

Former defence minister Willie O'Dea, ex-trade minister John McGuinness and veteran Fianna Fail TD Mary O'Rourke have all suggested the party leadership be put back on the table.

Mr O'Dea said other TDs who supported Mr Cowen in the confidence vote earlier in the week had changed their minds since the bungled Cabinet reshuffle.

"Now it is really up to them. If they want to make a move, I'll support that," he told RTE.

"It is up to them to reverse the situation that they created by voting - in my view, the wrong way - on Tuesday night."

Mr O'Dea said the public viewed Mr Cowen's failed attempt to parachute several Fianna Fail figures into high-profile ministerial posts weeks before an election as a "grubby stroke".

Under party rules, 18 signatures are needed to table a motion of no confidence in the leader.

PA Media