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Andrew Lynch: Now it's up to Kenny to show he's ready for the big job

You can almost see power ebbing across the floor of Leinster House.

Brian Cowen may have survived last night's Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting, but he is now a lame-duck Taoiseach who can waddle on for a few more months at the very most.

The ball has suddenly bounced into Enda Kenny's court -- and with the fate of the Budget resting on his shoulders, the Fine Gael leader is faced with the biggest decision of his political life.


Before the Soldiers of Destiny gathered yesterday evening, backbench rebel Noel O'Flynn promised that it would be "a bare-knuckle affair".

Despite this Muhammad Ali-style bravado, in the end Cowen's critics floated like a butterfly and stung like a sheep.

That's not because they've decided that he's actually a brilliant leader after all -- it's because they plan to help him push the Budget through and then bring him down immediately after Christmas.

The reality is that very few FF TDs now expect to be fighting the general election with Cowen's face on their posters.

Privately shattered by the events of the last fortnight, his only ambition now is to push through a Budget and then retire with as much dignity as he can muster.

Mary Hanafin has thrown her hat into the ring and Micheal Martin and Brian Lenihan are actively planning campaigns to take over from Cowen.

While the FF soap opera will be entertaining to watch, it is largely irrelevant to the real problems facing the country.

The market's response to the Irish rescue package has been alarmingly negative, which makes it all the more crucial that a Budget is passed on December 7.

If it fails, then there is a real danger that the IMF might withdraw its loan offer and the country's ATM machines would simply run out of banknotes.

It should be blindingly obvious that this is no time for political stunts.

Instead of keeping his cool, however, John Gormley's dangerously stupid decision to call time on the FF-Green coalition has plunged the political system into even more chaos.


All eyes in the EU are now fixed on the antics in Dail Eireann -- and the Brussels money-men have made it pretty clear that they're not at all impressed.

This is where Enda Kenny comes in.

By announcing that FG will help to pass the Budget as long as they are allowed to help write it, he could restore some desperately needed certainty to the situation.

Since FG agrees with the Government's basic target of cutting €6bn this year, that shouldn't be too difficult.

Kenny is currently playing for time by demanding that the budget be brought forward by a week. While that might be a good idea in itself, it does not address the fundamental issue.

He can bring down the government and have a Christmas election if he wants -- or he can act in the national interest and secure our economic future by leading his troops through the TA lobby on December 7.

Enda Kenny has promised to lead "the best government ever".

Right now, most people would settle for a half-decent one. The man who would be Taoiseach is holding the future of this country in his hands -- and the decision he makes will tell us once and for all whether he's really up to the job.