Brian Cowen tells FF he is not resigning

Thursday 13 January 2011 22.28
Brian Cowen - Has not considered resigning
Brian Cowen - Has not considered resigning

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has told the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that he is not resigning, though he has acknowledged that there are issues surrounding his leadership.

Following widespread speculation about his future as leader, Mr Cowen said that he would talk to them individually over the next week to discuss what was in the best interests of the party.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News, the Taoiseach said he made it clear at the parliamentary party meeting he is the democratically elected leader of the party.

He said he will deal with the issues people are raising on a one-to-one basis, to assess what they believe to be in the best interest of the party in terms of preparation for the election.

He said he has not considered resigning, and has not said to anyone that he was stepping down.

Asked if any ministers told him he should consider his position, Mr Cowen said he spoke to ministers as a group and some individually and had a chat about the political situation and how to go forward.

Asked if he would fight on if a confidence motion in him was tabled, Mr Cowen said there are democratic procedures in the party, but he recognised the concerns in Fianna Fáil regarding electoral prospects and the election, and said it is his duty to gauge the issues people are worried about.

He added that if a confidence motion was put down it would be a matter for the party to consider.

He said he is committed to leading the party, there is no vacancy and no probationary period.

In relation to his contacts with Sean FitzPatrick he said the parliamentary party accepts everything he did was above board and appropriate, and that Fianna Fáíl sought to do what was right in the national interest and was not beholden to any personal interest.

He said there was nothing in a game of golf relative to the discharge of his public duties.

He said there is no basis in fact that he did something that was inappropriate.

Minister for Children Barry Andrews tonight expressed support for Mr Cowen's Leadership, and said he believes he has the support of the parliamentary party.

He added that he believes Mr Cowen is up for the fight for the General Election.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Batt O’Keeffe said that to the best of his knowledge, all Fianna Fáil ministers have indicated that they want Mr Cowen to lead the party into the General Election.

He said Mr Cowen would always put the party before himself and his first concern was the party.

Green Party TDs and senators met earlier this evening to consider the Fianna Fáil parliamentary meeting about their party leadership.

In a statement, they said they note Mr Cowen's decision to consult his parliamentary party members about the matter.

The statement went on to say ‘The Green Party has already stated that Mr Cowen should himself have revealed his contacts with Anglo Irish Bank principals.’

Rumours concerning leadership

There had speculation around Leinster House this morning that the meeting would consider Brian Cowen's leadership.

Asked whether a no confidence motion might be tabled, one senior minister told RTÉ 'that may well happen'.

However, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said there were no plans to hold a motion of confidence in the Taoiseach at the meeting.

Speaking to reporters at Stormont, Mr Lenihan said he was aware of a 'spate of overnight rumours' concerning Mr Cowen's leadership of the party.

He said he was not aware of the intensity of the speculation, and was not a party to it.

Mr Lenihan said that as one of Mr Cowen's ministers, he naturally had confidence in the elected leader of the party.

He acknowledged that Fianna Fáil deputies were 'anxious about the future direction of the party' and said there were concerns about the very survival of Fianna Fáil.

When asked if he would like to become leader of the party, the minister said 'a member of any political party is always interested in the leadership of the party.'

Support for Cowen

Earlier, two of Brian Cowen's supporters said they would be remaining loyal to their party leader.

The Donegal North East TD Niall Blaney and Carlow-Kilkenny's Bobby Aylward said they would support the Taoiseach at today's parliamentary party meeting.

The pair admitted there were a lot of rumours doing the rounds about the future of Mr Cowen's leadership but Deputy Blaney said he had no reason to believe that Mr Cowen would not lead Fianna Fáil into the General Election.

RTÉ Political Correspondent David Davin-Power said some of Mr Cowen's supporters conceded that he had been seriously weakened by the revelations of his contacts with former Anglo Irish Bank boss Sean FitzPatrick.

The Taoiseach yesterday told the Dáil his side of the controversy over the previously undisclosed contacts.

The only new information to emerge was that after playing golf with Mr FitzPatrick and his friend Fintan Drury, a number of other people joined them for dinner.

They were Mr Cowen's garda driver, businessman Gary McGann, who was then a member of the Anglo board, and Alan Gray, who had been appointed to the Central Bank board by Mr Cowen in 2007.

Mr Cowen said they had not discussed bank matters and again rejected suggestions that he acted improperly.

However the Opposition said the disclosure had left his credibility damaged.

One of the participants in the dinner involving the Taoiseach and Mr FitzPatrick said the affairs of the bank were not discussed at the meal.

In a statement last night, economist Alan Gray confirmed he attended the dinner in Druids Glen Golf Club in July 2008.

Mr Gray, who did not play golf, said the purpose of the invitation was to provide independent ideas to stimulate economic growth and reduce unemployment.

Lowry would not back a new nominee for Taoiseach

Independent TD Michael Lowry has confirmed that he would not support a new nominee for Taoiseach in the event of Fianna Fáil changing its leader.

Deputy Lowry, whose vote is crucial to the Government's majority in the Dáil, said: 'if Fianna Fáil want a new Taoiseach, they should call an election.'

Later, in a statement, he called for the Dáil to be dissolved and an election held. 'When this issue arose last year I stated my position clearly,' he said. 'This has not changed.

Independent TD Jackie Healy-Rae says he has not decided if he would vote for a new Fianna Fáil Taoiseach.

However, Deputy Healy-Rae said he would have to see what happens before he made up his mind, but he said he was not prepared to support every 'Johnny-come-lately'.

It is not clear what the Green Party position would be on the election of a third Taoiseach in the lifetime of a single Dáil.

Separately, Sinn Féin has announced that it has tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Cowen on behalf of the Technical Group in the Dáil.

In a statement, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin announced the seven members of the group had tabled the motion.

'This Taoiseach and this Government are completely discredited. No effort must be spared to remove them from office,' said Mr Ó Caoláin, who called on Fine Gael and Labour to support the motion.