FIANNA Fail was on the verge of tearing itself apart last night over the cabinet reshuffle fiasco, with the prospect of another heave against Taoiseach Brian Cowen being discussed within Leinster House.
Just two days after Mr Cowen survived a motion of confidence in his leadership, cabinet ministers were openly briefing against him in the halls and ashen-faced TDs admitted they are facing electoral Armageddon. The level of debate within the party also became increasingly bitter and rancorous as people sought to apportion blame for the latest calamitous episode in recent Fianna Fail history.
TDs once again openly talked about replacing Mr Cowen by assembling 18 names to trigger a motion of no confidence in him but many decided to simply return to their constituencies and fight for their seats.
As of last night, there were no definite moves towards tabling a motion of no confidence -- but Mr Cowen's leadership was still in the balance. Some expressed hope that senior party figures would go to Mr Cowen in the next few days and tell him his time is up.
A group of angry backbenchers were seen in animated conversation with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and former Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin following the Taoiseach's announcement in the Dail on the Cabinet and General Election.
Cowen loyalists also despaired and regretted backing him in Tuesday's motion.
"There are no words to describe this, no words," one minister who supported Mr Cowen said. "It could be just a matter of time before a motion is put down against him. I'm not hanging around here anymore, I'm going back to the constituency."
Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin, who was seen as a leadership contender, said she told Mr Cowen that the idea of a reshuffle would go down disastrously with the public.
"I genuinely felt this was the wrong thing to do," Ms Hanafin, who is now also the Minister for Enterprise, said.
Junior minister Conor Lenihan called on Mr Cowen to resign. "I believe it would be just best for the party if he moved on," Mr Lenihan said.
He said yesterday's events were "without parallel" and even surpassed the infamous dying days of Albert Reynolds' Fianna Fail-Labour coalition.
Some blamed leadership contenders for not moving earlier and said it was "those f**kers' fault there will be no Fianna Fail after this election".
"I feel betrayed," one TD said.
"After all the stuff we have been through and put up with -- the things we had to sell to people -- and the times we backed him, he goes and does something like this. It's unbelievable."
Another rebel TD added: "You're just watching the implosion of Fianna Fail. We are in such a state.
"There is a lot of talk about him being asked to resign or there will be a move against him.
"He is f***ing delusional. His contribution to the meeting the other night was like something from 20 years ago at a convention.
"He was saying we were ready, we had the candidates, we had the money -- we have nothing. We can't go to the public with the baggage this man has. This big beast of Fianna Fail has ruined the party."
And Cork North-Central TD Noel O'Flynn accused Mr Cowen of "ruining our party".