Three in five say Cowen should step down before election

THREE in five people believe Brian Cowen should step down as Taoiseach before the next election.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan would be the preferred choice to take over from Mr Cowen, according to an opinion poll.

The findings illustrate the problems facing Mr Cowen who was told by one of his own TDs this week that he is a “Taoiseach on notice”.

Despite the findings and internal criticism of Mr Cowen, however, it is thought unlikely there will be any move against him in the next couple of months.

Ministers are instead focusing on the bank bailout and pushing through the December budget, which Mr Lenihan admitted yesterday would be much harsher than previously indicated.

The poll, carried out on Monday and Tuesday this week, asked respondents if Mr Cowen should step down before the next election.

Some 61% – or three in five – said he should step down, while 29% said he should not, with 10% having no opinion.

Asked who in Government should take Mr Cowen’s place were he to step down, 39% of respondents opted for Mr Lenihan. Next came Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin on 18% followed by Arts Minister Mary Hanafin on 8%.

Some 6% of people opted for Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, while 5% opted for others, with the remaining 24% saying they didn’t know.

The poll was carried out by Ipsos MRBI for the Irish Times, and featured a sample of 1,000 voters.

The first installment of the poll, published yesterday, showed Labour as the most popular party in the state on 33%, up four points since the corresponding poll last June.

Fine Gael was down three points to just 24%, putting the party level with Fianna Fáil, which was up three to the same figure. And although that represented a small boost in fortunes for Mr Cowen’s party, his own personal approval ratings remain on the floor at just 19%. Labour’s Eamon Gilmore, by contrast, remains the most popular leader in the country on 49%, with his Fine Gael counterpart Enda Kenny on 25%.

Earlier this week, at a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, backbencher John McGuinness told Mr Cowen he was a “Taoiseach on notice” and that half of the party’s TDs would be “getting their P45s” at the next election if the Government did not improve its act.


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