Taoiseach hits back at Fianna Fáil dissidents at party meeting

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has told his party tonight that he is not a probationary leader and intends to be at the helm of Fianna Fáil for the next election.

Mr Cowen faced down dissidents tonight, effectively telling them to stop the sniping as it is damaging the Government.

The Taoiseach addressed his TDs and Senators for about 15 minutes at the start of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting tonight.

He told the gathering that while he understood the electoral fears that some had about losing their seats, the sniping had to stop as it was damaging him, Fianna Fáil and the Government.

His speech was interpreted by many as a challenge to 'put up or shut up', as the rebels do not appear to have somebody willing to put him or herself forward as a challenger at this stage.

Mr Cowen got a standing ovation in the room, with one supporter saying it was a rousing speech.

Another person in the room described it differently however, saying it looked pretty desperate, and that he was almost on his knees begging for his job.

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