Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's 'dithering' performance at Cabinet overshadowed the Labour Party's think-in yesterday.
Labour ministers desperately attempted to play down the revelations in the Irish Independent that Mr Gilmore is failing to assert himself at government meetings.
The Foreign Affairs Minister's colleagues have been surprised by the rare number of contributions from him at their weekly meetings.
Mr Gilmore is said to come across as "indecisive", "unsure of himself" and "quiet", while others in the party are carrying the can for him.
Senior Labour figures were furious as the report dominated coverage of the party's meeting of TDs, senators and MEPs in Carlow.
The Tanaiste and his colleagues reacted touchily to the revelations. Mr Gilmore said he did not believe any cabinet minister had made comments quoted in this newspaper.
However, the Labour leader failed to address the specific comments from senior cabinet ministers about his performance at Cabinet.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte also defended his party leader.
Mr Gilmore's lack of engagement at Cabinet pops up repeatedly among colleagues and is apparent to ministers in both parties.
"He (Mr Gilmore) is very unsure of himself on cabinet issues and rarely contributes. He can't make his mind up about anything without Mark Garrett (his chief adviser) telling him. He is just unsure of himself," a senior minister said.
Labour colleagues Brendan Howlin, Ruairi Quinn and Mr Rabbitte often step into the breach and are viewed as the influential voices for the junior coalition partners.
The trio of veteran ministers, who have previous experience of sitting at the cabinet table, fill the void when Labour needs to provide guidance to Fine Gael on its position on a policy and are a "stabilising force in the Government".
"I can't get over him. He is very quiet at Cabinet. He's afraid to take positions . . . he doesn't command authority," another minister said.
The revelations came as the latest opinion poll shows the party is floundering at 12pc.
Angrily fighting back against the criticism, Mr Gilmore avoided questions about his own performance at the cabinet table.
"First of all, I saw that report and I don't accept that any minister said what was quoted in that article.
"We are not going to be distracted by that type of tittle-tattle. We have a job of work to do, that job of work is to bring about a recovery for this country," he said.
Mr Gilmore denied there were times when he was indecisive and quiet.
"No. I'm very happy with the effectiveness of the Labour party in this Government," he said.
Pressed about his own performance, he again dodged the question. "No, this isn't about my performance, you know."
Mr Rabbitte claimed Mr Gilmore was a very effective leader whose contribution at cabinet level was invaluable.
Comment: Lise Hand P23