Reaction from backbenches a mix of support and silence
SEVERAL Fianna Fail backbenchers yesterday expressed public support for Taoiseach Brian Cowen, despite a call from their colleague, Tom Kitt, for new leadership.
But a large number of other TDs were ominously reluctant to voice support for Mr Cowen when contacted by the Irish Independent.
Kerry North TD Tom McEllistrim characteristically declined to comment.
"I'm in the middle of a meeting. I'll call you back in half an hour," were his only remarks.
Cork East TD Michael Ahern said he had confidence in the Taoiseach's ability due to his "knowledge and experience".
Limerick West TD John Cregan said there appeared to be a "substance versus style" issue.
Also backing the Taoiseach was former minister and Limerick East TD Willie O'Dea, who said Mr Cowen was doing his best "in difficult circumstances".
Waterford TD Brendan Kenneally said people in his constituency were not raising the leadership issue and he had "no problem at all" with Mr Cowen.
Carlow-Kilkenny's Bobby Aylward said last week's debacle had not changed his perception of Mr Cowen, adding: "I'm still a supporter of his."
Longford-Westmeath's Mary O'Rourke, who is the aunt of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and junior minister Conor Lenihan, said: "I would be in favour of Brian Cowen remaining if he changes his style of connecting with the public and with the parliamentary party. Holding a parliamentary meeting before the Dail term started was a "good idea", she said.
Her constituency colleague Peter Kelly said: "Brian Cowen is . . . not doing anything that is making himself more popular. He's not doing anything to make Fianna Fail more popular but he is making . . . decisions that need to be taken."
Kildare South's Sean O Fear- ghail said: "This is an issue of substance and style if you like. (Mr Cowen) has the substance. The problem is we've had a problem with his style, certainly his style of communication. But certainly I believe that he has the capacity to address that problem.
"I'm disappointed he hasn't addressed it to date but I do believe he has the capacity to."
Dublin North-West's Noel Ahern, who was removed by Mr Cowen from the junior ministerial ranks, said: "He's our leader, full stop. I don't want to be giving an answer one way or another because, as I see it, it's not an issue. It's not arising."
Dublin South-Central's Sean Ardagh said a parliamentary meeting to discuss the leadership was "not needed".
Dublin North's Darragh O'Brien said the controversy was blown out of proportion.
Party chairman and Wexford TD John Browne said he had no problem with the leadership and it was now time to move on.
Dublin Central TD Cyprian Brady, expressed confidence in the Taoiseach, and said there was "no issue of a contest".