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Martin stands by Cowen but warns of poll thrashing

FIANNA Fail would be hammered if a General Election were called, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin has admitted.

But Mr Martin, who is being tipped as a potential future leader of the party, has pledged his alliance to Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

As pressure continues to mount on the Taoiseach to "up his game", Mr Martin has spoken out to suggest that he will not lead a charge against his boss.

Several backbenchers are keen to squeeze Mr Cowen out of the top job, but no Cabinet member has been willing to mount a challenge.

Yesterday, Mr Martin conceded that they are major issues within the party, not least of which is Mr Cowen's style of leadership.


He criticised the Taoiseach's ability to communicate with the public and with the party's own TDs, but argued that Mr Cowen had "led the country through the worst of the recession".

"I accept Fianna Fail is in difficulty... There are issues about communication which have been alluded to, which I would accept. There are issues about our internal party structures in terms of facilitating backbenchers," he said. The Cork TD went on to note that Mr Cowen doesn't embrace the media or see a need to use media opportunities for a "communication advantage".

"To be fair to Brian Cowen, he is as he is. It's clear, I think, he doesn't engage with the modern nature of communication politics," Mr Martin said.

He also conceded Fianna Fail would take a "very significant hammering" if the opinion poll figures were repeated in a General Election. The latest poll showed a 3pc drop in support for the main Government party, confirming claims that last week's reshuffle was a "missed opportunity".

The Green Party, which gained an extra ministry, maintained its support at 5pc.

Its leader, John Gormley, reiterated its support to the coalition yesterday and stated firmly that he believes Mr Cowen will continue in power.

Outspoken backbencher John McGuinness is set to raise the leadership issue at the scheduled meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party tomorrow night. He has already publicly called on the Taoiseach to "consider his position".

Asked whether he sees the Taoiseach's position as vulnerable, Mr Gormley said: "I frankly think that that's not going to happen. I just don't see it happening."