Taoiseach defeats plot to oust him


Taoiseach Brian Cowen will lead Fianna Fail in the last days of Government after surviving a plot to oust him

Taoiseach Brian Cowen will lead the Irish Government into its dying days after defeating a plot to oust him.

But rebel Micheal Martin, who led the charge against the embattled Fianna Fail leader, quit his Cabinet post after a failed leadership challenge.

After a three-hour meeting, Mr Cowen survived in a secret ballot and reluctantly accepted the resignation of his Foreign Affairs Minister.

“It sends a very strong confirmation that there are consequences to the decision and the stand that he took,” Mr Cowen said.

John Gormley, leader of junior coalition government party the Greens, will meet the Taoiseach tomorrow to discuss a timetable for the Finance Bill, outstanding legislation and the general election.

Voters expect to go to the polls in about three months, possibly March 25.

Although some backbenchers and one junior minister demanded change, the Taoiseach said he did not expect any further resignations. Government Chief Whip John Curran refused to detail the Taoiseach’s margin of victory.

The Taoiseach, who spoke for about 30 minutes in the private meeting and delivered what supporters called a fiery address, said Mr Martin felt honour-bound to step down. He called on TDs to unite behind the decision.

Mr Martin fronted the challenge against the Taoiseach but elsewhere in the Cabinet, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was accused of an eleventh hour u-turn in favour of the Taoiseach and Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin refused to declare support.

The less-than-convincing backing was widely seen as a damaging blow and Mr Cowen will also be troubled by remaining rebel backbenchers left deeply disaffected by the leadership battle.

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