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Lenihan woos younger generation ahead of vote

AT the back of his carefully prepared speech, leadership hopeful Brian Lenihan scribbled a few brief notes.

They simply read "strength of character", "courage of his convictions", "communicator" and "inspirational leader".

These were images the Finance Minister tried to show as he made his pitch for the top job yesterday.

Mr Lenihan said senior members of Fianna Fail must prepare to pass the party leadership over to a younger generation.

In his pitch, he admitted the party now faced a fight for its "very survival".

But he also insisted Fianna Fail must have a substantial presence in the next Dail "to act decisively in the national interest should any ill-formed coalition disintegrate". The Dublin West TD seemed to hint he did not intend to be a long-term team leader, but would prepare the ground for a younger generation to take over.

"The task of leading this party must soon fall to a new generation and there is an obligation on those of us with government and party experience at a senior level to assist the transition necessary to achieve that generation shift," he said at his leadership launch in the Banking Hall in the Westin Hotel in Dublin.

There have been suggestions within Fianna Fail that a younger TD -- a member of the so-called 'ogra generation' -- could take over as leader.

Mr Lenihan has tried to woo the support of younger TDs, and his speech yesterday could be seen as a further attempt to win them over. The current favourite for the leadership, Micheal Martin, is seen as a longer-term leader.

Mr Lenihan said he did not believe Mr Martin had unstoppable momentum to win the leadership vote and claimed he had been promised support by a substantial number of TDs.

He also made play of the fact that, according to opinion polls and the exchanges he had with the public, he is popular with voters and that, as a Dublin TD, he could boost the party in the capital and the commuter belt.

He would not be drawn on whether he told Taoiseach Brian Cowen to step aside last week, only saying he discussed the leadership and "various scenarios" with Mr Cowen.

He also said he did not vote against Mr Cowen in last week's confidence motion as he felt he would then have to resign.

"The Finance Minister cannot leave his post. My understanding is that when you lose confidence in the Taoiseach you resign your position."

He added that Fianna Fail had made mistakes and said they were made because of a "reluctance to face up to difficulties and our anxiety to please various sectional interests".

Irish Independent