Taoiseach vows: 'There'll always be a Cowen from Clara' for FF
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night emotionally evoked the memory of his late father when delivering a passionate speech to his party grassroots ahead of this evening's crucial leadership vote.
In a speech to the Meath West selection convention, Mr Cowen said he would respect whatever decision the parliamentary party made but pledged there would always be a "Cowen from Clara" fighting for Fianna Fail.
Mr Cowen was elected to the Dail in 1984 -- aged just 24 -- when he contested a by-election caused by the death of his father Ber, who died aged 52.
Ber Cowen was elected to the Dail five times and enjoyed a 20-year career in parliament. Last night, the Taoiseach brought up the memory of his father, and his grandfather Christopher, in illustrating his commitment to Fianna Fail.
"And I say this: I have served this party and I have been proud to serve in it in many positions. I canvassed for my late father in elections. I remember my late grandfather who was a founder member of this party," Mr Cowen told 300 activists in the Old Darnley Hotel in Athboy, Co Meath.
"We've been there from the beginning. We'll be there today, we'll be there tomorrow and for as long as there is a national executive, for as long as there is a canvass, for as long as there is a poster to be put up, there'll be a Cowen from Clara."
He defended his record in Government and also said he was glad that Fianna Fail's poor standing in opinion polls was causing the current debate in the party, which has seen Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin challenge him for the leadership of Fianna Fail.
"I know this party is in trouble electorally," Mr Cowen said. "I am glad to see that is being reflected in our parliamentary party deliberations.
"I have no qualms or no quibbles with any members of my parliamentary party. I will support and defend them and their right to have their views.
"Fianna Fail are going to fight back. We may be down but we're not out. All of us have to become fighters for the cause."
The convention saw Transport Minister Noel Dempsey bid farewell to his local organisation as he steps down as a TD when the election is called.
He described the Taoiseach as the most "decent and honest" politician in the Dail, but also "caring" and "compassionate".
"I have no problem declaring my confidence in him," Mr Dempsey said.
The convention saw sitting TD Johnny Brady and Councillor Shane Cassells selected.