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'Leftie' O Cuiv confident of a strong spell leading opposition

HE is regarded as the champion of Fianna Fail's grassroots, but Eamon O Cuiv insists he has what it takes to lead the party from the top.

The Galway-based Social Protection Minister -- who also now holds the Defence portfolio -- claimed that he had "very firm support" for his challenge to emulate his famous grandfather, Fianna Fail founder Eamon de Valera.

He accepted it would be necessary to win support from TDs throughout the country, but said he was not daunted in any way by the challenge.

"I would expect to get support right across the country," he said.

Mr O Cuiv said he believed the leadership contest was about identifying the person who best represented the vision of Fianna Fail into the future.

It was about who the party believed could best articulate the values that Fianna Fail stood for and who had the energy to go around the country, engaging with people and communities and party members.

He confirmed he would be nominated and seconded for the leadership by fellow western TDs Michael Kitt and Eamon Scanlon. He also revealed that his constituency colleague in Galway West, Frank Fahey, was also backing his bid to succeed Brian Cowen.

"I have been making phone calls in the last 24 hours or so and what it seems to me is that I have definitely got some support -- very firm support -- given to me.


Mr O Cuiv said he had always belonged to what was jokingly referred to as the left wing of the party. He had always believed the whole ethos of Fianna Fail was centred around the ordinary people of the country and that that was where the party got its great strength from.

"I would certainly not be one who would have been socialising with the 'great and good' of this country. I think people know where, by a very conscious decision, my lifestyle is."

He acknowledged that Fianna Fail was facing a period in opposition after the general election, but said that he was not under any illusions about the size of the task of rebuilding the party.

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"I'm not as naive as to believe that a party that has been languishing at 17pc in the opinion polls and down as low as 14pc, would make a Lazarus-like recovery and get an overall majority.

"I would hope we would form a strong opposition. I think that is vital and that we would then rebuild the party from the bottom up," he said.