Hanafin May 'Throw Hat In Ring' For Taoiseach

The Irish Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Mary Hanafin said she would throw her "hat into the ring" if or when a leadership contest against Taoiseach Brian Cowen begins.

Ms Hanafin was quick to say there was no "heave" against Brian Cowen and she said she would not be part of any such move. However, speaking outside parliament buildings today, the Tourism Minister said if the opportunity arose and she had the support of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party, then she would be prepared to run.

Meanwhile, an RTÉ radio poll yesterday revealed Michael Martin is the favourite to become the next leader of Fianna Fail if Brian Cowen steps down.

The embattled current Fianna Fail leader is facing widespread criticism and speculation of a backbench revolt and a possible vote of confidence by his party.

Some 3,000 listeners to RTE's Liveline programme yesterday said the Foreign Minister was the preferred candidate to succeed Mr Cowen.

Some 38% of the Liveline listeners said they would like to see Mr Martin become the next leader of Fianna Fail. He was followed by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan on 27% and Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin on 26%.

Tanaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan drew a weak 4% of listeners' support.

According to bookies Paddy Power this morning, a Fine Gael Labour coalition is the most likely result in next years election at 1-12, while the chances of Fianna Fail achieving even a minority Government is 100-1.

Enda Kenny is favourite for the Taoiseach position at 1-2 with Eamon Gilmore next at 7-4 and Brian Cowen a generous 10-1. Also quoted are Mr Lenihan and Mr Martin at 12-1, Ms Hanafin at 16-1 and Dermot Ahern at 25-1.


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