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Cowen aims to seal party allies before Dail grilling

THE Cabinet met this morning as Brian Cowen moved to try and firm up support within Fianna Fail.

Although the Taoiseach was set to be grilled about 'golfgate' by the Opposition in the Dail this evening, he was believed to be more concerned about the views of his own TDs.

The Green Party has backed Mr Cowen to continue leading the Government until the Finance Bill is passed but his own ministers and backbenchers are said to be less sure.

"It's a pretty awful position to be in. Every time you think that things can't get any worse, they do. Nobody saw it coming that he had played golf with Seanie," one source told the Herald.

The Cabinet meeting was also set to discuss what pieces of legislation will be rushed through the Oireachtas before an election is called.

But with Mr Cowen set to stand in front of the Dail, Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore were poised to turn the focus back on his interactions with former Anglo Irish Bank boss Sean FitzPatrick.

Speaking ahead of the new Dail term, Mr Gilmore said that gardai should demand answers from Mr Cowen as part of their investigation into the downfall of Anglo Irish.

"I presume that the gardai will question the Taoiseach about what Mr FitzPatrick said to him," he said.

Fine Gael's Alan Shatter made a similar call and also criticised John Gormley for continuing to support the Government.

"John Gormley has admitted that the Taoiseach should have disclosed earlier his contacts with Sean FitzPatrick in 2008.

"I am now calling on John Gormley to clarify whether he regards the Taoiseach's failure to co-operate with the garda investigation into Anglo as improper and whether he has yet asked the Taoiseach to assist the Garda in its inquiries."

A meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party tomorrow is also likely to be taken up by debate about the Taoiseach's contact with Mr FitzPatrick.

And the party suffered another blow last night when Sligo-North Leitrim TD Jimmy Devins announced his retirement.

Although Mr Devins was outside the party whip, he was still considered a supporter of the Government.

He said that the removal of breast cancer services from Sligo General Hospital was one of the main factors in his decision. He resigned the party whip in August 2009 for the same reason.

He is the 13th Fianna Fail TD to announce that he will not be contesting the election.

kdoyle@ herald.ie

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