A spokesman for the Tánaiste, Mary Harney, has said it is his understanding that Ms Harney will be putting herself forward for re-election as leader of the Progressive Democrats next year. 

He also disputed accounts of the lunch which she and the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, had earlier today as a 'clear the air' session. 

The spokesman said that a party meeting on Tuesday, which the Tanaiste described as 'open and frank', had accomplished that.

He also confirmed that Ms Harney intended to remain as leader after the next election.  

The rules of the party oblige a leader to seek a vote of confidence within three weeks of a general election and he said he understood that the Tánaiste would be following that course.

Both Ms Harney and Mr McDowell earlier denied reports that a challenge has been made to Ms Harney's leadership of the PDs.

A report in The Irish Times this morning suggested that Mr McDowell believed he had been promised that Ms Harney would step down as PD leader before the next Dáil election.

Ms Harney told RTÉ News there was never a deal in relation to the leadership of the Progressive Democrats.

She said the party was small and did not enter into private deals.

The Tánaiste said it would not be in her power to make such a pact as the future leadership would be decided at a parliamentary party, college of electors and others after she stands down.

She said there had been a very frank and open discussion on the strategy for the next election at the parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday. She added, however, that there were no threats made.

Ms Harney said the matter was over and she wanted to work together with Mr McDowell as a fellow member of Cabinet.

Mr McDowell denied that he had asked Ms Harney to step aside and said the party was united.