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Taoiseach ready to see off rebels at crunch meeting

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen will fend off dissident Fianna Fail TDs tonight despite growing disquiet with his leadership.

Mr Cowen is expected to face stern criticism from backbench party members at a scheduled meeting of his parliamentary party but ultimately TDs and senators will back him to continue leading the country.

Sources said some TDs will oppose the communications strategy being employed by Mr Cowen and his handlers but he will not face a confidence vote.

The gathering will also discuss the party's continually poor ratings in opinion polls before members go their separate ways for the summer recess.

The crunch meeting takes place against a backdrop of further trouble for the Government after it emerged the EU Commission may not be entirely happy with its plans for Anglo Irish Bank.

Reports today said that EU officials have grave reservations about the survival plan for the bank that is being put forward by Mr Cowen and his Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

They have been warned that the plan has the potential to be excessively exposed to the property market.





Worst

Anglo has already been graded as the worst bank in Europe and has already received €14bn in taxpayers' money, with up to another €8bn earmarked to keep it afloat over coming years.

Mr Cowen could face a grilling on this subject from Opposition leaders when the Dail sits for leader's questions this afternoon.

But it is the later meeting of the parliamentary party that will be Mr Cowen's focus today.

Several backbench TDs came out today to defend the Taoiseach's performance, arguing that he is unpopular because he is making unpopular, but necessary, decisions.

Dublin TD Darragh O'Brien said he is "500pc supportive of Brian Cowen as leader of the party and as Taoiseach".

Similarly, Tallaght representative Charlie O'Connor said he "will remain loyal".

And Mr Cowen's also regained the support of independent TD Jackie Healy Rae, who last week voted against the Government for the first time in 13 years.

The Kerry TD said the Taoiseach would lead Fianna Fail into the next election and was doing a good job.

Some within the 'rebel rump' want Brian Lenihan to step forward but he continues to battle illness and is unlikely to make a move in the near future.

kdoyle@herald.ie


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