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Cowen's brother now being tipped to defend his seat

BRIAN Cowen's brother could be convinced to defend his Dail seat if the Taoiseach quits politics.

Fianna Fail is facing a major crisis in Laois/Offaly as speculation mounts Mr Cowen will leave public life altogether after stepping down as leader of the Government party.

His brother Barry -- who is chairman of Offaly County Council -- has refused to comment on his own position but, significantly, hasn't ruled out the possibility of his own candidature.

A local source told the Herald: "If Brian asks him to run it's a done deal. But the local party are begging Brian to go again."

Cllr Barry Cowen is an auctioneer and valuer, but recently took up a job as commercial manager with Mullingar Greyhound Stadium.


Speaking on his local radio station, he said that Fianna Fail was urging Brian to seek re-election, even though his Dail pension of around €160,000 per year would be substantially more than a TD's salary.

"As far as I'm concerned, and the organisation is concerned, and those I have spoken to, there is huge support and a groundswell of support for him to continue because this constituency has never seen his likes before and won't again," said Cllr Cowen. Asked on Midlands 103 radio if he would consider running, he replied: "I'm not saying whether I'd be interested or wouldn't be interested. I'm not even contemplating the job.

"What I'm contemplating now is trying to use our organisational strength to convince him to run in the election."

Mr Cowen's constituency secretary, Sinead Dooley -- wife of former Offaly hurler Johnny -- is also a possible contender if her boss retires. The party will deal with whatever situation it finds itself in," said Cllr Cowen.

Local party members have told the Herald that if the Taoiseach refuses to seek re-election it would be an "unbelievable blow" to the organisation.

"He got 19,000 first preferences last time. For the sake of the party and constituency we need him to run."

However, Cllr Cowen said that he has concerns about the toll recent events have taken on his brother and their family.

"I would of course have concerns about how it would affect him as a person. You have to remember that Brian is at an age at which my father died in public life.

"Brian has a young family and Brian has had to contend with a barrage of criticism, a barrage of insults," he said.


Fianna Fail have scheduled a selection convention for next Tuesday but Cllr Cowen said the Taoiseach should be given "a bit of time" to decide.

"As he said himself at the press conference on Saturday, you have to take one step at a time." He added: "Nobody has died, life goes on. We pick ourselves up and go on. We're very proud of his achievement and his record both to the constituency and the locality and the county and nobody can take that away from him."

Cllr Cowen said that nobody could take away "the level of popularity and the support he has received throughout his career and into the future, no doubt".



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