Monday 11 December 2017

Cowen now 'teetering on the brink' as anger grows

Frustrated backbenchers mobilise for summer leadership challenge

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

Taoiseach Brian Cowen's grasp of power over the country and over Fianna Fail is "teetering on the brink" with angry backbenchers mobilising to remove the leader during the summer.

As it goes into the last week of this term, the Government's majority in the Dail is now precarious and there is still an outside chance of a defeat in the chamber.

Independent TDs Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae have said this weekend they are seeking further amendments to the controversial Dog Breeding Establishment Bill if they are to support it.

"There is room for further refinement and I want to thank Mr Gormley for the level of cooperation that now exists compared to two weeks ago," Mr Lowry said.

Mattie McGrath, who lost the FF whip last week, confirmed yesterday that he still intends to vote against the bill, describing it as a "bridge too far".

Mr McGrath also heavily criticised Mr Cowen over his failure to come out and communicate more clearly and more often with the people.

Fellow rebel backbencher John McGuinness last week called on someone within the Cabinet to challenge Mr Cowen for the leadership of Fianna Fail. He said the key issue with the party's leadership is that someone from the Cabinet needs to emerge as a challenger if Mr Cowen is to be ousted.

analysis pages 26, 28-29, 32

Mr McGuinness repeated his belief that Mr Cowen would not lead the party into the next General Election.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael rebel Simon Coveney yesterday denied that he "grovelled" or "lobbied" in a last-minute bid for inclusion in Enda Kenny's new-look frontbench.

Senior party figures have said that a last-minute plea from Mr Coveney was enough to convince Mr Kenny to award him the transport portfolio at the expense of another young gun, Clare TD Joe Carey.

Mr Coveney, who supported former deputy leader Richard Bruton in his failed power grab, was a surprise inclusion in the frontbench last Thursday and confirmed that he had sought and had a meeting with Enda Kenny prior to the announcement.

The meeting was requested the previous Thursday but only took place last Tuesday, 48 hours before Mr Kenny announced his new team.

"There have been lots of things said about me this week and they're not true. I did seek a meeting with Enda before the announcement but it was to clear the air," he said yesterday.

"It was a very civil, positive meeting. I did not grovel or lobby for a position as has been suggested. Enda asked me would I be willing to serve in any position and I said I would."

Mr Carey had been widely tipped for a position with several colleagues offering handshakes of congratulations in the Dail chamber. But he said this weekend he was never promised a frontbench job, despite all the media speculation.

Sunday Independent

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