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Embattled Taoiseach can run but can't hide much longer

If ever a Taoiseach needed a holiday, it's this one. Brian Cowen is limping towards the Dail's summer recess, beset by problems and leading a party that's on the verge of mutiny.

With the dog breeding and civil partnership bills likely to pass by Thursday, he should at least make it to his caravan in Galway -- but unless he can find a way to exert his authority, the odds on a change of leadership or general election by the end of the year are increasing all the time.

At a breakfast meeting in Government Buildings last week, Kildare TD Sean Power told Cowen to his face he was not providing the country with proper leadership. In a party where discipline has always been a secret weapon, this is highly significant. It confirms that a small but highly motivated group of backbenchers are willing to mount a coup -- and while Enda Kenny escaped with a narrow victory, Cowen would need a more convincing vote.

Sooner or later three outstanding by-elections have to be held, all but wiping out the government's majority. The December budget will involve reducing the deficit by €3bn, meaning social welfare payments are sure to be slashed. As long as unemployment keeps rising, FF's poll ratings will stay at rock bottom.

Brian Cowen is like the English football team -- tipped for great things but a woeful disappointment in the heat of battle. No wonder his players have quietly begun the search for a new manager.