Dermot Ahern to make his position clear

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern will today reveal if he is to challenge Tánaiste Brian Cowen to become the next Taoiseach.

The Dundalk politician is now believed to be the only senior government figure that could force a contest to be Bertie Ahern’s successor.

Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Micheal Martin has ruled himself out of running for the top office and rallied in behind the clear favourite Mr Cowen.

“In my view there’s not a necessity for an election,” he said.

“But again other candidates may come forward, other people may have different perspectives.

“I think it’s very much a matter for them, it would be their entitlement and I don’t want, in anyway, to suggest that people shouldn’t.”

Senior figures within Fianna Fáil are to talk during the day about the process for electing a new party leader after Bertie Ahern’s shock resignation announcement yesterday.

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste Brian Cowen and Fianna Fáil party chief whip Tom Kitt are expected to hammer out the way forward.

If there is no contest, it is expected that Mr Cowen could be appointed the new party leader after a meeting of the parliamentary party by as early as next week.

The Dáil would then vote on May 7 to elect a new Taoiseach, which should be the then Fianna Fáil leader, bar any dissension from party rebels or coalition partners in the Green Party and Progressive Democrats.

If Dermot Ahern – or anyone else in Fianna Fáil – decides to contest Mr Cowen’s assumed succession then all but one of the party’s 78 TDs, with Ceann Chomhairle John O’Donoghue excluded, will be polled.

No senators or MEPs will vote.

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