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Cowen faces renewed party fury but rebels fail to find contender

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen is counting the days until his summer holidays so that he can get a break from disgruntled backbenchers.

Factions within Fianna Fail are set to make the next week of Dail sittings extremely uncomfortable for Mr Cowen, as mutterings of a leadership heave increase.

A rump of backbenchers want somebody to take up the baton from Mr Cowen but for the moment at least they cannot find a Cabinet minister who is willing to challenge him.

"If Brian Lenihan was well enough, he'd be running the country," one Fianna Fail TD told the Herald.

It is thought that many backbenchers will voice their unhappiness at a meeting of the parliamentary party tomorrow night.

However, sources admitted there is unlikely to be a Fine Gael-type heave in the coming months. Disastrous opinion poll results and fears of an election wipe-out are fuelling speculation that a move will be made at some stage.

"It could be a case that six months before the next election people will realise that a move has to be made. At the rate things are going there will be little to lose at that stage," said a source.

Government chief whip John Curran said today that everyone is "aware" that the Taoiseach isn't the most popular politician in the country.

"Quite obviously among the parliamentary party there are differences," said Mr Curran, but he argued that Mr Cowen has "clearly demonstrated his capacity as leader" by making difficult decisions.

"The concern is about where the party is and that we are now getting recognition at this point in time for the decision we have taken," he said on RTE's Morning Ireland.

Expelling

The disquiet comes as Mr Cowen faces the prospect of expelling three more senators from the parliamentary party over the Civil Partnership Bill and faces a further revolt over Thursday vote on the dog breeding.

A scheduled meeting of the parliamentary party tomorrow night will hear a presentation from general secretary Sean Dorgan on the state of Fianna Fail grassroots organisation.

It is understood he will also make reference to the recent opinion polls that show the party lagging well behind Fine Gael and Labour.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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