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Haughey condemns Taoiseach for 'neglecting party'

Sean Haughey yesterday gave a damning assessment of Brian Cowen's tenure as Fianna Fail leader, accusing the Taoiseach of allowing the party to fall into disrepair by his neglect.

Mr Haughey said he was not surprised at the announcement, which he said was "inevitable" given the week's events, particularly what happened in the Dail on Thursday.

While he said Mr Cowen had "done the State some service" he had "neglected party matters and allowed the party to fall into disrepair".

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny savaged Mr Cowen, and said the Taoiseach's attempt to remain as head of Government despite losing the confidence of his own party was "another sad example of Fianna Fail putting their own survival ahead of the country's".

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said it was now clear the Irish people did not want the Government to remain in office for another single day.

"They do not greatly care who leads Fianna Fail. They want a new government with a fresh mandate and the commitment and ability to get our country working and to get our people back to work," Mr Gilmore said.

He added that all of those who have been spoken of as possible contenders to replace Mr Cowen share responsibility for the disastrous state in which they have left the country. "They all backed and voted for the disastrous bank bailout in September 2008," he said.

Former Fianna Fail minister Ray McSharry, whose interjection on Friday was one of the first real signs that Mr Cowen had lost the confidence of the party, told the Sunday Independent: "I think Mr Cowen has made the right decision. A leader gets support and respect from the party, but they have to have their own responsibilities as regards the leadership.

"He has honoured those responsibilities," he added.

Fianna Fail deputy for Dublin South East Chris Andrews paid tribute to Mr Cowen, describing him as "a man of great integrity and honesty".

Fianna Fail Chief Whip John Curran said he did not believe Mr Cowen had pushed the self-destruct button by his actions last week.

"The Taoiseach put the motion of confidence on Tuesday to the parliamentary party, clearly succeeding in that motion, which was then followed by the events of later in the week.

"The Taoiseach was conscious of the fact that as a party, Fianna Fail had an election in six or seven weeks and these rumblings weren't of any benefit."

Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar described the week's events as "a circus and a disgrace". "What we want now is an immediate general election. I am almost glad we have the IMF EU bailout in place. Can you imagine going to the markets to try and borrow money with this kind of drama going on?"

Senator Alex White of the Labour Party said it was simply not credible that Mr Cowen could stay on as Taoiseach when he was not party leader.

"There's a complete loss of any sense of public dignity. As someone said to me this morning: 'What will it take for these people to prise their hands from the levers of power?'"

Deputy John Browne, the Chairman of Fianna Fail, confirmed that nominations for the leadership would close at lunchtime tomorrow with an election on Wednesday by secret ballot.

He said he thought it would be a good thing if there was a contest for the leadership.

"We have the names of Brian Lenihan and Mary Hanafin and Micheal Martin for some time, and there is also talk of the class of 2007. The young deputies who were elected then might put a name forward," he said.

Noel Ahern, the Fianna Fail TD for Dublin North West and former minister of state, said he is "going to wait and see who is running".

He added that Micheal Martin was "very impressive" last week, "dignified" and "gracious" in his handling of the leadership issue. "I would say that he is very much in pole position," he said.

Sunday Independent