Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said that he is leading a united Government and is determined to lead the country out of the present economic crisis.

Brian Cowen was answering a question about reports that members of his party are unhappy with his leadership.

Mr Cowen added that members of his party had already discussed the difficulties and that it was now a priority for the Government to get on with the work.

Earlier, two Government ministers responded to disquiet expressed by some Fianna Fáil backbenchers over the loss of support for the party and its leader recorded in opinion polls.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said that everyone in Fianna Fáil needed to improve their performance and rejected suggestions of rumblings within Fianna Fáil against Mr Cowen's leadership.

Mr Ahern said that nobody within the party was happy that the Fianna Fáil ratings stood at 24%.

However, he said that the Government was involved in taking difficult decisions and that the Taoiseach was giving great leadership.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Batt O'Keeffe said it was not a time for in-fighting but a time for the party to pull together for the sake of the country.

The two were speaking ahead of the weekly meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party tomorrow night.

Power seeks 'change in direction'

Fianna Fáil South Kildare TD Sean Power has said that he would support a challenge against Mr Cowen's leadership if it was for the benefit of the country, but that he did not foresee a challenge happening in the near future.

Speaking to KFM, Sean Power said that if Mr Cowen intends to continue leading Fianna Fáil and the country, he will have to change his direction and strategy.

He confirmed that he had told Mr Cowen at a breakfast meeting two weeks ago that people were disappointed to varying degrees with his performance as Taoiseach.

He said he told the Taoiseach that at this very difficult time people needed hope and leadership and he was not providing it.

He said there were a number of people within Fianna Fáil who had recently expressed their concerns about the way things were going, but he declined to put a figure on them.

Asked if he was calling for Mr Cowen to step aside, Mr Power said he was calling for a change of direction.

O'Flynn wants FF popularity restored

Fianna Fáil backbencher Noel O'Flynn ealier said members continue to be concerned over the party's unpopularity.

Recent opinion polls have put Fianna Faíl support as low as 17% and the third most popular party behind Labour and Fine Gael.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen's own approval rating has dropped to only 18%.

The Cork North Central TD said he was eager to hear the Taoiseach's strategy for reversing the party's fortunes and for lifting his own popularity at a parliamentary party meeting tomorrow night.

However, he said a change of leadership was not up for discussion at the meeting.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Noel O'Flynn said: 'Several weeks ago I raised this matter and indeed went public with it in relation to the Irish Times poll.

'Prior to Easter, the Taoiseach said he had a strategy to lift his own popularity and the popularity of the party. We have yet to hear that strategy.'

Mr O'Flynn said that the discussion of the poll results was postponed because of Richard Bruton's challenge for the leadership of Fine Gael and the stag hunting debate.

'I expect that we will have a presentation by the General Secretary on the poll figures and we will hear from the Taoiseach on how he is going to lift the popularity of the party,' he said.

'I am extremely worried about the popularity of the party. I am extremely worried that, if you take the figures at present, it will be very difficult for Fianna Fáil to win any seat in a three-seater.

'It would be a struggle to get a seat in a four-seater and we would get one in a five seater.

'You can't argue with the poll figures. They have been consistent for the last few years. We have gone from 42% at the last General Election down to an all-time low of 17%.

'That is a concern whether you be a backbencher or whether you be a minister.'

However, Government Chief Whip John Curran said that the majority of Fianna Fáil members do not have a problem with Mr Cowen's leadership.

Mr Curran said that the small number of backbenchers who have expressed disquiet are not representative of the party as a whole.

He acknowledged that there were concerns over the party's consistently poor performance in the opinion polls, but said it was not a question of Mr Cowen's leadership.