Ned, a game of golf and the case for Sherlock Holmes

* FRIDAY, JANUARY 7: A new opinion poll, conducted by Red C for Paddy Power bookmakers, shows Fianna Fáil on just 14%, level with Sinn Féin and a whopping 21 points behind Fine Gael.

Anxiety among Fianna Fáil backbenchers increases about the party’s electoral prospects.

* SUNDAY, JANUARY 9: Fianna Fáil TD Ned O’Keeffe, previously seen as loyal to the Taoiseach, launches a withering attack on Brian Cowen in the Sunday papers and tells him it is time to go. Some backbenchers see the hand of Micheál Martin at work, believing Mr O’Keeffe has been prompted by the Foreign Affairs Minister to go public with his criticism. That same morning, the Sunday Times publishes extracts of a new book revealing previously undisclosed contacts — including a round of golf — between Mr Cowen and former Anglo boss Sean FitzPatrick in the run-up to the 2008 bank bailout. Backbenchers groan as they realise things can still get worse under Mr Cowen’s leadership, while the Greens announce they want an explanation.

* MONDAY, JANUARY 10: Mr Cowen turns 51, but there’s little to celebrate his birthday. Mr Martin meets with him in Government Buildings for a frank exchange on “the challenges facing the party and Government” according to one source. That night, Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin — seen as another ally of Mr Martin — repeatedly refuses to express confidence in Mr Cowen. Backbenchers take it that a heave is now in the works.

* TUESDAY, JANUARY 11: The cabinet convenes for its weekly meeting. Separately, Mr Cowen gathers the Fianna Fáil ministers in cabinet for a separate discussion about the leadership issue. Green leader John Gormley, meanwhile, says he is not “Sherlock Holmes”, can find no evidence of wrongdoing by Mr Cowen and will therefore stay in coalition with him.

* WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12: Backbenchers return from their constituencies as the Dáil resumes after the Christmas break. Quizzed by the opposition on the Anglo issue, Mr Cowen stuns Fianna Fáil with even more revelations about whom he dined with following his golf outing with Mr FitzPatrick. It’s not long before the rumours of a heave go into overdrive, with suggestions that there will be a meeting that night in Buswells Hotel to plot Mr Cowen’s downfall. No such meeting takes place, but other suggestions emerge that the “young Turks” in Fianna Fáil will put down a motion of no confidence in the leader at a parliamentary party meeting the following day.

* THURSDAY, JANUARY 13: There is a febrile atmosphere around Leinster House ahead of the meeting, scheduled for 12 noon. Fianna Fáil TDs are in the dark, as it becomes clear that the leadership fight is being waged at ministerial level only. The TDs come to believe that the pressure being applied by Mr Martin, Ms Hanafin and others on Mr Cowen is so great that the Taoiseach will reluctantly bow to the inevitable and announce his intention to step down as leader. But the meeting is suddenly pushed back until 3pm and it emerges that some kind of a fight-back is on. Sure enough, at the meeting Mr Cowen announces he will remain as leader, but will launch a consultation period to assess the views of his colleagues.

* FRIDAY, JANUARY 14: Mr Martin encourages backbenchers to make their views clear to Mr Cowen in the consultation. Ms Hanafin announces that the process should not be dragged out, and that Mr Cowen should give an answer quickly. Neither of them confirms their intention to challenge Mr Cowen should he stay put, but that is the interpretation put on their comments. Mr Cowen, who has started the consultation process on Thursday night, continues speaking with ministers and TDs.

* SATURDAY, JANUARY 15: Mr Cowen concludes the consultation process and mulls over his options.

* YESTERDAY: Mr Cowen announces he is going nowhere, and puts it up to Mr Martin, Ms Hanafin and the third leadership candidate, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan. Mr Martin responds last night by saying he no longer has confidence in Mr Cowen as party leader.

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War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence