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Cowen to face leadership showdown over Anglo contacts

Taoiseach Brian Cowen was expected to face a leadership showdown today amid fresh revelations about his contacts with senior Anglo Irish Bank bosses.

A meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party was put back for three hours until 3pm with a spokesman blaming scheduling issues for both the Taoiseach and TDs.

But Fianna Fail faithful were said to be unhappy with the drip feed of previously undisclosed Anglo contacts prompting speculation that Mr Cowen`s position was under threat.

Mr Cowen yesterday revealed he was joined at a dinner following a golf outing with ex-Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick in July 2008 by a Central Bank director and another former member of the Anglo board.

The Government secured a bank guarantee scheme to protect Anglo and other banks from collapse two months later.

Mary O`Rourke, Fianna Fail backbencher, dismissed the speculation and said talk of a leadership heave was wide of the mark.

"It`s far too late. I hate saying it but we are where we are," she told Newstalk radio.

"We are so near a general election that it would be futile I think to go changing anything."

Eighteen signatures of TDs and Senators are required to force a vote on the party leadership.

A general election is expected in March.

Finance Minster Brian Lenihan insisted there would not be a motion of no confidence against the Taoiseach this afternoon.

Speculation has since centred on whether Mr Cowen will make a statement to party colleagues, potentially discussing his future.

Mr Lenihan said he has confidence in the Taoiseach.

"We are heading into a general election now. Deputies are anxious about the future, after the election, of the party," the minister said.

Mr Lenihan admitted TDs and party members were concerned about the survival of the party after the Spring election.

Twelve Fianna Fail TDs have announced their retirement from politics in recent weeks.

"Brian Cowen is the elected leader of the Fianna Fail party. As one of his ministers naturally I have confidence in him," Mr Lenihan said.

The Minister, whose is battling cancer but has been spoken of as a potential leadership contender, said he was taken unawares last night by the latest revelations over Mr Cowen`s banking connections.

The minister added: "He did not in anyway approach me about any banking matter."

PA Media