Fianna Fáil ministers rally round Taoiseach after poll

FIANNA Fáil ministers have insisted Brian Cowen is not a liability despite poll findings showing the party at a record low and three in four people saying they want a change of government.

But Green senator Dan Boyle put the coalition’s chances of survival beyond the next six months at no more than 60%, saying a snap election was a definite possibility.

“Getting to January I think is going to be a challenge in itself,” he said.

The Government faces three massive hurdles before then: getting Lisbon passed, establishing NAMA and pushing through a harsh Budget.

Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin said the public clearly wanted a general election now. But ministers insisted they would not be diverted from their plans by the poll findings, which showed 75% of voters wanted a change of government.

“Opinion polls, as I’ve said often, won’t affect us in the task we have to do,” Justice Minister Dermot Ahern insisted.

He denied that Mr Cowen – whose personal approval rating tumbled to just 15% in the poll – was now a liability.

“No, he is not a liability and the Taoiseach is working extremely hard at the difficult issues, as are the Government,” he said. “We don’t have a history of changing our leader just because of political polls.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin also denied the poll raised questions about Mr Cowen’s leadership.

“No, it doesn’t raise any questions of that sort, and have absolutely no doubt about that.”

Green leader and Environment Minister John Gormley played down talk of the coalition collapsing, saying: “I think the odds are against an early election.”

But his colleague Mr Boyle – regarded as a more accurate guide to Green thinking because he is not in Cabinet and therefore not as restricted in what he can say – acknowledged the “public disenchantment” with the coalition.

The hurdles facing the Government meant the chances of a snap election within six months were “40:60”, he said – meaning a 40% chance of an election and a 60% chance the Government will survive beyond then.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called for an immediate election, explaining: “I believe very strongly that somebody needs to have the authority of the people to implement a programme to sort out this country.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny played down criticisms that he didn’t have the flair of politicians such as Barack Obama and Tony Blair.

“Enda Kenny has no intention of being like Barack Obama or Tony Blair. I am Enda Kenny, that’s my name and that’s who I am,” he said. “And my job over the last seven years as leader of this party was to rebuild the organisation, put a sense of steel and motivation into people that this party should not suffer from any inferiority complex, and that has been tested in every electoral contest that I’ve been involved in, and will be tested again on the next occasion when we will win the general election. So to those who write off Kenny, I would say: watch this space.”


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