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Conor Lenihan: Party activists think Cowen is a dead man walking -- we have to listen to them

SO, the long-awaited leadership contest in Fianna Fail is finally under way.

Since last summer, there have been mutterings -- but nothing definite.

The episode in Galway last September shook confidence to the core.

Brian Cowen survived the late night drinking episode with an apology and another promise to communicate better out front.


After Galway, it seemed he was communicating better.

However his own poll rating and that of the party continued to plummet.

Last summer and after Galway, I asked my own party activists their private views on Mr Cowen. There was affection, supportive words but no belief in his ability to carry the party message to the public.

Now the same activists describe him as a "dead man walking."

Few that I spoke to over the past weekend believe he can win us votes in the General Election.

Some ministers ignore the views of activists and dismiss their right to comment.

However, like it or not, it is these unpaid volunteers that keep TDs on the road at election time.

Most of these party activists favour a change of leadership because they believe it might prevent a wipeout of the party.

The debate about leadership is less about Mr Cowen and more about the survival of the party.

There is a real fear that the party is facing extinction and will not continue to exist after the election.

Micheal Martin has, in effect, along with other colleagues, forced a contest to occur.

Batt O'Keeffe said ministers who did not support the Taoiseach would be sacked.

Mr Cowen has chosen to ignore his best friend's advice.

It may be that he is not doing so to Mr Martin from motives of both fear and confidence.

Fear of losing Mr Martin's support in the election and confidence that he will win the confidence vote.

The fact that Brian Lenihan insisted that Mr Cowen put down a confidence motion will bring things to a head.

The matter needs to be resolved one way or the other.

Mr Cowen is not going down without a fight. He was always good when his back was to the wall. The party activists complain that his performances are poor when is back is not to the wall -- which in their mind at least is most of the time.


The problem with golf with Seanie Fitz is that it brings back the Haughey years in full glare.

It looks like the golden circle all over again with bankers and developers taking up the empty chairs.

The public simply do not believe that golf was on the tip of everyone's tongue and no business was discussed.

Conor Lenihan TD is a Dail Deputy for Dublin South West and Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation