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I have a plan to save country, Taoiseach tells FF

Taoiseach Brian Cowen lifted the spirits of his colleagues yesterday when he announced that his Government has a plan to rescue the economy and save the country.

Mr Cowen told his parliamentary party that there will be a couple of significant announcements before the end of the month. And then he reassured a nearly-full meeting room that there is a strategy and the Government will soon be rolling out the new plan.

For weeks now TDs and senators have fretted about the notable absence of a strategy and were very worried about Fianna Fail candidates being decimated in next year's local and European elections.

And the Taoiseach's hearty address worked like a treat, lifting their spirits and, for the first time in weeks, not a note of dissent was heard during the weekly meeting.

TDs appeared so relieved to hear that there actually is a plan to tackle the economic and banking crises that no-one bothered to ask about the details. Several TDs remarked that even Cork TD Noel O'Flynn appeared happier and didn't offer to speak which, they say, is of itself significant.

Others remarked that the meeting was particularly cordial, coming just days after the lowest rating for the Taoiseach and the party in polling history.

Rumblings in the party have been growing louder with TDs wondering why the Taoiseach and his team did not appear to have a rescue plan for the banks or the economy.

Worried workers raised fears about job losses and diminishing pension funds in the constituencies and they have been relaying their concerns to Government Buildings.

But then the Justice Minister, Dermot Ahern, raised even more smiles when he announced that there would be 15,000 gardai next year, three years ahead of schedule.

And then it was the turn of the Education Minister, Batt O'Keeffe, who raised a small cheer when he tackled the teacher question.

The top paid teacher, not a principal, earns €62,000-a-year now and their salary was only €32,000 when Fianna Fail came into office in 1997, he said.

The minister went on to rouse his colleagues by explaining that teachers pay amounts to €5.4bn from the €9.6bn education budget.

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A new realisation is gripping the Fianna Fail parliamentary party: they either hang together or hang separately.

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