A special meeting of the Labour Parliamentary Party this afternoon agreed to give leader Eamon Gilmore ‘a free hand to taken any initiative he deems appropriate over the coming days’.

It is thought this is a reference to the possible tabling of a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, or the Government.

However, it is not clear if such a motion will in fact be tabled, as the party would only do so if it thought it could be won.

Fine Gael sources have said the prospect of them putting down a confidence motion is ‘off the table’, at least for the time being, as it would tend to strengthen rather than weaken the Taoiseach's position.

Sinn Féin has tabled a confidence motion, but do not have the numbers to push it to a vote.