Cowen vows to stay at Fianna Fáil helm

Taoiseach Brian Cowen vowed today to continue as Fianna Fáil leader and claimed the party had been extraordinarily disciplined.

Amid reports of backbench discontent, Mr Cowen insisted the focus of everyone in the party was on convincing the electorate that the policies being pursued were the right ones.

He said he was leading a Government united in securing the country’s future.

Fianna Fáil TDs Sean Power, Galway’s Noel O’Flynn and rebel Tipperary South deputy Mattie McGrath have expressed concerns about Mr Cowen’s leadership.

But the Taoiseach said: “The party has been extraordinarily disciplined in my opinion and been prepared to take on and support these difficult measures we’ve had to implement in various budgets, which are not easy.

“But I think that the view of the party is that Government have a responsibility and a job to do and we have to get on with doing it.

“My job is to continue to lead the party in that effort and that’s what I intend to do.”

At the North/South Ministerial Council meeting in Farmleigh, Mr Cowen said the overwhelming aim of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party was to proceed with providing stable government for the next two years.

“All of the focus of everyone on every level of the party, from the leadership right down to the community activists... we’ve a job to do to go out to continue to communicate and convince the electorate that the job we’re doing and the policies we are pursuing are the right policies for the country,” Mr Cowen said.

“We have to get on with the job, we have to secure people’s future, secure this country’s future, and I lead a Government that is united and determined in that purpose.”

Kildare South TD Sean Power told Mr Cowen at a breakfast meeting last week that people were disappointed, to varying degrees, with his performance.

He said people were looking for hope and leadership and Mr Cowen was not providing either.

Mr McGrath, expelled from the parliamentary party last week over abstaining from voting on the Wildlife Amendment Bill, branded Mr Cowen and Green Party chief John Gormley weak leaders.

Cork North Central TD Noel O’Flynn also said he was extremely worried about the party’s popularity ratings and he wanted to hear from Mr Cowen how he intends to turn Fianna Fáil’s fortunes around.

But Justice Minister Dermot Ahern dismissed claims of backbench disquiet and said he was very happy with the Taoiseach.

“He’s done a very good job, I have to say in very difficult circumstances,” he said.

“We’ve been ably led and well led by the Taoiseach.

“And the last thing the country needs is political upheaval. We’ve seen that in the Fine Gael party in recent times.

“It just takes away attention from the important issues. We won’t be diverted from those.”

The Justice Minister said he was not suggesting that everyone in the party was happy but that the parliamentary party understood the difficulties.

He said ministers have been delegated to go around the country to speak with party members about the need for tough decisions while in government.

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