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Cowen regains control with Lenihan losing party's trust

FIANNA Fail TDs were backing off Brian Cowen today after the Taoiseach reawakened from his political slumber.

Mr Cowen appears increasingly likely to lead the party into a General Election after arguably his best round of performances since the 2007 poll.

Backbenchers had been urging Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to start a leadership heave in the wake of the Budget but supporters of Mr Cowen are confident that this will not now happen.



Passionate

"He was passionate and he was full of belief and he defended our position articulately, which was what we all want to hear.

"His demolition of Labour and Fine Gael in the Dail post-Budget was also a tour de force," the Herald was told today by a Cabinet member who also criticised Brian Lenihan's performance on Tuesday's Prime Time debate with Michael Noonan.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin is fast becoming the favourite to succeed Mr Cowen in an orderly handover that won't take place until after the General Election.

Relations between the two Brians are now at an all-time low after it emerged that Mr Lenihan informed some TDs that he would challenge the Taoiseach.

But an informed source said: "Certainly among the backbenchers, there is an increasing feeling that Lenihan has been damaged by his banking policy.

"The feeling is that Lenihan has got his timing wrong. Put simply, he missed the boat. His time is past. And Micheal Martin is the coming man."

The minister added: "Prior to the summer, Lenihan was definitely the cool, clean hero of the party but now TDs don't want to be defending his banking policy on the doors."

The ongoing friction between Fianna Fail ministers comes as a new split also emerged with their coalition partners.



Rushed

The Green Party have been warned that their agenda will not be rushed through in order facilitate them to leave Government.

John Gormley's party has set a list of priority pieces of legislation that it wants to pass including ones relating to climate change, the banning of corporate donations and the formation of a Dublin mayor.

But to get these complete it is likely that the Government will have to stay in place until at least the end of February or early March.

ANALYSIS: PAGE 14


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