Back me or sack me, Cowen tells FF

BRIAN Cowen told his party’s TDs and senators they should back him or sack him because Fianna Fáil cannot keep returning to the question of his leadership.

His reign over the party looks secure for at least another three months after talk of a heave came to nothing when just two TDs spoke out against him at the last meeting of the parliamentary party before the summer break.

Mr Cowen said he has devised a two-year strategy to improve the standing of the party ahead of the next general election.

In what was described as a passionate 15-minute speech, he said he was not a dictator, there were processes in place to remove him if they so wished and they should either use those processes or stand behind him.

The meeting took place amid growing dissent in the party following poor opinion poll results. But Noel O’Flynn and John McGuinness, who questioned Mr Cowen’s leadership in the past, were the only two of 71 TDs to criticise him.

“There was no threat tonight, there was never a threat,” said one TD after the three-hour meeting.

Chief Whip, John Curran, said last night there was “never a leadership question” and that the Taoiseach had reiterated his commitment to lead Fianna Fáil into the next election.

Mr Cowen emphasised he had no enemies in Fianna Fáil but said dissenters who spoke publicly against him were damaging the party.

Sean Power, who joined the dissenters this week by admitting he would support a leadership challenge “if it was for the benefit of the country”, did not speak out at last night’s meeting.

Speaking afterwards, Noel O’Flynn, of Cork North Central, said: “The Taoiseach made it clear he doesn’t want to return to this issue every two months. I don’t want to be discussing it every two months either and that is why I want him to up his game and talk to the people and make decisions that will be more acceptable to the people.”

While a number of parliamentary party members gave a standing ovation following Mr Cowen’s speech, Mr O’Flynn said he got a “stoney silence” when he spoke and called for an improved communications strategy but did not urge the Taoiseach to resign.

Fianna Fáil general secretary, Seán Dorgan, made a presentation giving details of focus groups and other research carried out showing all party members had to improve communications with their constituents.


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