Gilmore, Kenny start race to be next Taoiseach

Kevin Doyle

THE battle to be Taoiseach was under way in earnest today with Eamon Gilmore and Enda Kenny both claiming they would lead the country.

The Labour leader set an ambitious target of at least 50 seats in the General Election to ensure that his party can be the biggest.

But at the same time Fine Gael was "standing down" its website to launch what it described as the biggest consultation ever undertaken of the Irish electorate.

The overhaul of the website has seen its ordinary content replaced with a video of Mr Kenny addressing the voters from a Dublin coffee shop.

"One of the big failings of politicians is that they talk too much and don't listen enough," he says.

Viewers are invited to post comments on the site.

As the likely coalition partners stepped up their campaigns, Mr Gilmore ruled out sharing power with Sinn Fein and claimed that the so-called 'Gilmore Gale' would not run out of steam.

"I would expect to break 50 seats -- in order to lead the next government, it would be necessary to do that, and that's what we'll be aiming to do," he said.

He accepted that his chances of becoming Taoiseach depending on achieving that ambitious target.

Mr Gilmore was speaking on RTE radio while his counter for leader of the next Government was in Mayo where he has spent the Christmas holidays.

Junior minister Dara Calleary has suggested that the Fianna Fail leadership should pass from Brian Cowen to a young politician. Mr Cowen is expected to lead the party in the election before stepping aside.

Cabinet members Micheal Martin, Brian Lenihan and Mary Hanafin have all declared an interest in the top job but Mr Calleary joined calls for the party to skip a generation.