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Ministers joke about taking Cowen's job

BRIAN COWEN may have quelled Fianna Fail dissidents but that hasn't stopped two of his ministers joking about giving him the boot.

As the dust settled on the Taoiseach's Morning Ireland hangover yesterday, two ministers tipped as the potential next leader of the party have been talking about their ambitions -- albeit in jest.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin left the door wide open for a future leadership bid last night by admitting that he would like to be in charge some day.

And Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin played with the notion that she might someday be "Taoiseach Mary".

While denying that the knives are out for the Taoiseach, Mr Martin said last night that there is no member of the main Government party's frontbench who doesn't want to be leader.


Speaking in New York where he was chairing a conference alongside US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he reaffirmed that Mr Cowen has his full support.

But he added: "There is not a member of the Fianna Fail front bench who wouldn't like to be leader of Fianna Fail."

When asked about his own ambition, the minister light-heartedly replied: "Come back to me in 10 years time."

And he claimed it is important to "take stock and reflect" on events such as last week.

His comments came as Minister for Tourism, Sport and Culture Mary Hanafin was in Dublin making similar jokes.

She was launching Michael O Siadhail's new book of poetry called Tongues when she appeared to get a little tongue-tied herself.

The book deals with "unlived dreams" and Minister Hanafin said: "Why not be Taoiseach Mary," before quickly erasing the notion by adding "no, no".

Just last week, the Herald revealed how entrepreneur and Apprentice boss Bill Cullen would like to hire the minister.

The "disappointed" Fianna Fail supporter said that he believes Ms Hanafin is the best performer in Irish politics and would "blossom" in the role of Taoiseach.

"Women are multi-taskers. I've been doing school visits for years now. If I go into a girls' school they'll knock the socks off the boys," the self-made millionaire said.

"She is, unfortunately because of the death of her husband, a single lady so we'll get 120pc from her. And she's proven herself in many different ministries over the years."