Cowen 'Confident' On Leadership Vote

Brian Cowen has said he is confident he will remain leader of Fianna Fail after tonight's vote of confidence by his party.

At present, just short of half of Fianna Fáil’s 71 TDs are expected to vote in favour of keeping Mr Cowen as Taoiseach ahead of vote, while 12 TDs have declared their intention to vote against the motion.

The remaining TDs have failed their reveal their intentions, leaving tonight's secret vote far from decided.

A number of weighty members of the cabinet have publicly spoke out about the ballot, with Foreign Minister Michael Martin saying he expects Brian Cowen to lose the poll and indicating his decision to vote against him. Mr Martin said that a new leader is necessary before a general election and criticised the party's leader over the level of information made available to Ministers in the run-up to the IMF bailout and talks.

Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey said he supported Mr Cowen as Taoiseach and as party leader.

A key voice in the debate will be that of Finance Minister Brian Lenihan who, along with Tanaiste Mary Hanafin, is yet to declare his position. Mr Lenihan is however to make an announcement at 1pm, which is expected to prove pivotal in the leadership vote.

The Taoiseach, who is also facing an opposition motion of no confidence in the Dáil Parliament, has come under pressure because of revelations of a 2008 meeting with the head of Anglo Irish Bank shortly before he announced a multi-billion euro bank guarantee.

Former Anglo Irish Chairman Sean FitzPatrick is still subject to official scrutiny over his role in the bank's collapse and has previously been questioned by police.

Mr Cowen, who came to power in 2008, has denied discussing bank matters at the golf course, insisting he had not done political favours for any financial institution.

His position has come under political pressure since the Irish Republic was forced to seek a bail-out by the EU and IMF late last year.


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