Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s allies and opponents in Fianna Fail are to rally support ahead of a crucial vote on his leadership of the ruling party.
On Sunday Mr Cowen attempted to wrongfoot opponents by tabling a motion of confidence in himself and backing a secret ballot at a parliamentary party meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin has revealed he will be voting against the Taoiseach, claiming the very survival of the party was at stake.
He tendered his resignation from Cabinet but despite the damaging split in Government agreed to remain as minister after the Taoiseach said it was not necessary to quit.
But he said party members around the country warned him they did not want Mr Cowen as leader in the looming general election.
Supporters in both camps are expected to canvass party TDs to back them in Tuesday night’s critical vote.
After days of intense speculation over his leadership, Mr Cowen challenged rebels to a self-imposed secret ballot on his political future and claimed he has enough support to win. The Taoiseach insisted he was remaining in control of Fianna Fail “in the national interest”.
He said he did not believe his party colleagues wanted a new leader.
Concerns over the Taoiseach’s leadership came to a head in the last week after he was publicly grilled in the Dail on Wednesday over previously undisclosed contacts with former Anglo Irish Bank boss Sean FitzPatrick.
Under pressure, he revealed the names of two other business chiefs who joined him and Mr FitzPatrick for a post-golf match dinner in Druid’s Glen, Co Wicklow – Gary McGann, chief executive of Smurfit Kappa, who was a director of Anglo at the time, and Alan Gray, an economist appointed to the Central Bank board by Mr Cowen.