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Great contenders or pretenders?

THE dramatic events around Leinster House have all the elements of a heave – except a ringleader.

But is a knight in shining armour for Fianna Fail willing to step up to the plate?

The joke among Fine Gael TDs was that at least Richard Bruton pulled the trigger, even if his aim was way off target.

While the big three of Brian Lenihan, Micheal Martin and Mary Hanafin want Cowen to go, they don't want to be blamed for producing the big stick to prod him out.

But it’s now clear they will have to do their own dirty work if they want to take his place at the helm.

The backbenchers can lodge their motion of no confidence, and may well have to, however they really don't want to do that to Cowen.

The Taoiseach is not a quitter but those closest to him are turning towards Michael Martin as a new leader – or even Mary Hanafin if it came to it.

The big loser here is Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, with a belief in some party circles that his supporters have been stoking the recent fires and encouraging the “jump before you're pushed” talk about Cowen.

Despite the opposition to Cowen's leadership among the members, a blessing from him would still be a massive boost for a potential successor.

Micheal Martin knows this.


He's the clean boy of the party who has already been blessed enough to holed up in the Department of Foreign Affairs bunker for economic crisis.

On the other hand, Mr Lenihan has been in the eye of the storm. He's associated with words like IMF, bailout, e about his legacy than party bankers and austerity.

His supporters argue that Martin has been in Cabinet for 13 years and can therefore not be absolved from the Government's wrongdoing – but Martin is certainly not the face of it.

In the coming days, loyalties will be the first things to go over the cliff. Cowen may well be next and after that the real battle will begin.

With TDs facing a bleak future, they know that the right choice of leader could save as many as 15 seats in a General Election.

But history suggests that whoever launches a heave may not necessarily be victorious in a leadership contest.


Contenders often select a bogey candidate to lead the march before stepping in to take the glory.

However, on this occasion many backbenchers are so desperate for a fresh start that they may well back the first man or woman out of the blocks.

In the coming days, loyalties will be the first things to go over the cliff. Cowen may well be next, and after that the real battle will begin.