Lenihan denies he is plotting a heave against Cowen

BRIAN LENIHAN insisted he was not plotting any heave against Taoiseach Brian Cowen and that backbenchers had not approached him about taking over the leadership of Fianna Fáil.

The finance minister said Brian Cowen will lead Fianna Fáil into the next general election, playing down speculation that party troops wanted him to take on the job.

At the start of the party’s annual ‘think-in’, Brian Cowen hit back at critics, saying substance is more important than style and that he is doing what is best for the country.

“I’m continuing to lead the party and lead the Government in the way that I believe is best. We have a coherent Government programme, we’re implementing it, and the substance of our policies is what is important, as well as the style of my leadership,” he said.

While a handful of TDs stayed away from the conference which got under way in Galway yesterday, there was no talk of a heave, something put down to an acceptance a general election could be just around the corner.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the Taoiseach “absolutely” had the support of his parliamentary party. “They see the work that he has done over the past two years on an hourly basis on behalf of the country. This is not a personality contest, this is about who is likely to bring us out of this very tough recession.”

Mr Lenihan said “nobody has approached me about the leadership and we are all united here around the proposition that Brian Cowen will lead us into the next election”.

He said the party needs to “go into Dáil Éireann next time in a position to insist that necessary decisions are taken to put this country right.”

The minister, who has battled cancer since last Christmas, and is seen as the natural successor as leader of the party, said: “I have to say the Irish people and my own colleagues in the parliamentary party have been tremendously supportive of me in the last year as I battled with my own personal circumstances, as well as the financial difficulties of the nation.”


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