Lenihan favourite in race for leadership
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan is the overwhelming favourite to succeed Taoiseach Brian Cowen as leader of Fianna Fail.
And Mr Lenihan enjoys significantly stronger cross-party appeal, with supporters of all political parties favouring him as the next Fianna Fail leader, according to the Millward Brown-Lansdowne opinion poll for TV3 News.
Mr Lenihan is by far the most popular choice to succeed Mr Cowen among those who think the Taoiseach should be ousted, with a massive 46pc of respondents saying he should be the next leader of his party -- 31pc ahead of closest rival, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin.
Just over half, or 52pc, of respondents to the opinion poll said Mr Cowen should no longer continue as leader, with 40pc saying he should remain on and 8pc expressing no opinion.
But only 22pc of Fianna Fail supporters say Mr Cowen should step down, while support for a change is highest among Fine Gael (63pc) and Labour (61pc) voters.
Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin and Justice Minister Dermot Ahern have very little support among those looking for a change, recording only 4pc and 2pc respectively, while 27pc of people said they didn't know who they preferred.
The findings come days after Mr Cowen's leadership was thrown into doubt by his 'Morning Ireland' interview, with Mr Lenihan, Mr Martin, Ms Hanafin and Mr Ahern all mentioned as possible successors.
Mr Lenihan's cancer battle was thought to have ruled him out of any leadership move, but his aunt, Longford-Westmeath TD Mary O'Rourke, said he would be willing to put himself forward if a vacancy arose.
And the fact that Mr Lenihan is widely liked by supporters of other parties, signalling he could win votes where other contenders would struggle, puts him in pole position in any leadership race.
Support for the Finance Minister is 47pc among Fianna Fail voters and 48pc among both Labour and Fine Gael voters.