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Taoiseach wins party backing

Taoiseach Brian Cowen tonight retained control of Fianna Fail after winning a motion of confidence in his leadership.

Mr Cowen saw off a challenge from Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and will head the party in the general election which has been penciled in for March.

In a brief statement a party official said: "The Fianna Fail parliamentary party has voted confidence in the leadership of An Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD."

Seventy-one TDs voted in a secret ballot after a near three hour meeting in the party rooms in Leinster House, Dublin.

Mr Cowen had retained majority support of the Cabinet ahead of the vote.

PA Media