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Cowen's own men draw up leadership list

A GROUP of once-loyal Fianna Fail backbenchers are plotting Taoiseach Brian Cowen's downfall this evening.

Following Mr Cowen's 'Garglegate' escapades at the Fianna Fail think-in, the group of TDs is actively seeking an end to Mr Cowen's disastrous reign.

TDs who were waiting for Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to be well enough to take over from Mr Cowen are now spreading their net wider, looking at Micheal Martin, Dermot Ahern and even Mary Hanafin.

The incensed politicians are openly referring to the controversy as 'Garglegate' but are refusing to comment publicly at the moment.

One backbencher told the Herald: "Some of them have their heads in the sand to be honest. We should be able to speak out and say we're not happy with this."

TDs who made public appearances yesterday were advised to stick a line criticising Fine Gael's Simon Coveney for his twitter post that alleged that the Taoiseach sounded "half-way between drunk and hungover".

Mr Coveney had made the comments even though he was unaware that Mr Cowen had been smoking, drinking and singing in a bar until almost 3.30am. "This is not Fine Gael's problem. This is our problem," said a Fianna Fail source, who added: "We should be able to call it like it is."

But one backbencher did break ranks last night to launch a thinly veiled criticism of the Taoiseach.

"Cowen's got questions to answer. However, the majority of twitterland is hysterical and pathologically negative. Now I await hysterical reaction!" Chris Andrews said on twitter.


Speculation was today mounting around the position of Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin who said that the Taoiseach had "lessons to learn" from the incident. While other Cabinet members were calling for Simon Coveney to withdraw his remarks, Minister Martin said his boss needed to "knuckle down".

The Taoiseach and Mr Martin were both taking part in an EU Council Meeting in Brussels which will discuss the European Union's external relations.

Mr Cowen has some breathing space because the next meeting of the parliamentary party isn't due to take place until the last week of September.

But a poll carried out by Joe Duffy's Liveline show yesterday found 77pc of people no longer have confidence in the Taoiseach. More than 24,000 people took part in the 10-minute text poll.

In his apology last night, Mr Cowen said: "I would hate to think that the reputation of the country or the office of the Taoiseach would in any way be affected by what I had to say."

Simon Coveney accepted the apology but said he did not regret his twitter comment as he was merely saying what people were thinking. "It takes a big person to apologise in the circumstances in which the Taoiseach finds himself.

"I totally accept what he has to say, and fair play to him for doing that," he said.

But Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said it was "yet another example of a confused response" from the Taoiseach.

"I think there is a sense in the international community now that not only does Ireland have zombie banks but we also have a zombie government and that the sooner we get it out of government, the better," he said.