Lenihan insists no plot to oust Cowen

FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan has moved to kill off the suggestion he is plotting to overthrow Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

He said the position of who led the Fianna Fáil party, and by extension the Government, was not an issue at the moment.

Mr Lenihan said he spent the weekend selling the country’s recovery prospects to the international media and not feeling for support among his back bench colleagues.

“The issue of the leadership does not arise. There is no vacancy.

“The minister spent a large part of [Saturday] briefing UK newspapers on the current financial and economic position,” Mr Lenihan’s spokesman said.

Last week’s late night antics at the Fianna Fáil think-in, and Mr Cowen’s subsequent poorly presented interview with Morning Ireland, created the most destabilising week within the ranks of the senior coalition partner.

However, the Taoiseach survived the weekend without any explicit move against him and will now await the results of the first opinion poll of the autumn, due for release in six days.

Over the weekend attention switched to the desire and ability of Mr Lenihan to react to backbench disquiet and trigger a move against the man who appointed him finance minister.

Mr Lenihan told a Sunday newspaper while his energy levels were good, and the treatment was completed, his pancreatic cancer had not gone away.

“I’ve too much to do in terms of the Department of Finance, in terms of meeting my own personal challenge on the health front, to be absorbing any thought of leadership,” he said.

Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe said despite the Taoiseach’s apology there was no heave in motion.

Despite a number of Fianna Fáil TDs expressing dissatisfaction with Mr Cowen, he said their comments were not evidence of a coup.

Mr O’Keeffe said even on his best days ex-taoiseach Bertie Ahern believed 20 people in his parliamentary party opposed him and this was no different for the current head of Government.

He said any person elected to the Office of Taoiseach would face difficulties selling the impending budget.

And, for Fianna Fáil, the concern at the next general election was minimising the losses it expected to make.

Green Party leader Minister John Gormley said he did not think there was any unrest within Government.

He said there was no sign of Mr Cowen stepping down so the question of whether his party could support a third Fianna Fáil taoiseach since the General Election of 2007 did not arise.

“I don’t believe there is instability in Government. There is no vacancy (for Taoiseach), and the Minister for Finance has come out to clarify that,” he said.


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