Cowen confirms bid for Fianna Fáil leadership

Tánaiste Brian Cowen has today confirmed that he has submitted his nomination to become Taoiseach.

Just two days after Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced his resignation, Mr Cowen is now an almost certainty to succeed him after securing the backing of all of his senior colleagues.

Nominations for the leadership close tomorrow and if, as expected, he is unopposed, he is expected to be elected to Taoiseach in the Dáil on May 7.

"It is with the greatest possible respect for Bertie Ahern's contribution to our party's welfare and with genuine humility that I put my name forward," Mr Cowen said.

"It follows that I would be deeply honoured if my parliamentary colleagues determine that I should succeed the Taoiseach as party leader and to be their nominee for the then vacant position of Taoiseach."

Mr Cowen was formally proposed by Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan and Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan.

Key cabinet members ruled themselves out of the contest yesterday and gave their backing to their prospective new boss, making Mr Cowen's appointment now almost inevitable.

If he is unopposed as expected he will be elected leader after a meeting of the parliamentary party on Wednesday.

If anyone decides to contest Mr Cowen's assumed succession then all but one of the party's 78 TDs, Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue, will be polled.

Meanwhile the Taoiseach attended a series of public engagements in Dublin today but remained tight-lipped about his replacement.

Asked why he re-admitted ousted TD Beverly Flynn into the party fold Mr Ahern said it was the appropriate time for her return.

The Mayo deputy was brought back by a unanimous decision of the party's National Executive on the recommendation of the outgoing Taoiseach yesterday.

"At the time there were certain things that she had not been able to deal with, we always said when they were dealt with we would be able to return to that and thankfully many months ago that was sorted out, so it's an appropriate time for her to come back," he said.

Ms Flynn - daughter of former Fianna Fáil politician Padraig Flynn - finalised a settlement with RTÉ last year after failing in her libel case against the state broadcaster.

The former National Irish Bank financial adviser launched an action against the station after it alleged that she assisted a number of customers in evading tax.

She lost her High Court case in 2001 as well as an appeal to the Supreme Court three years later.

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