Cowen says party leadership is secure

Taoiseach Brian Cowen today denied his leadership of Fianna Fáil would be in jeopardy if scores of his candidates get rejected at the ballot boxes.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen today denied his leadership of Fianna Fáil would be in jeopardy if scores of his candidates get rejected at the ballot boxes.

Opinion polls suggest the senior Government partner faces a fierce voter backlash in the European and local elections as well as two by-elections in Dublin.

However Mr Cowen said during a canvass walk-about in Dublin South that he and Fianna Fáil ministers were taking difficult decisions in the national interest in order to revive the stalled economy.

“As far as I’m concerned I’m the democratically-elected leader of the Government and the Government will continue,” the Taoiseach said.

When asked if he felt secure as Fianna Fáil leader, Mr Cowen replied: “Absolutely.”

Flanked by Fianna Fáil’s Dublin South candidate, Shay Brennan, on the William Dargan Luas Bridge, the Taoiseach added: “More and more people recognise that this is a campaign by a Government party that is prepared to take necessary decisions in the longterm interests of the country.

“At the end of the day, this Government will continue to implement the policies that are necessary.”

Mr Cowen opened Mr Brennan’s campaign office in Dundrum before visiting Dundrum Town Centre in the Dublin South constituency.

Mr Cowen said the response from voters was more positive than the media was suggesting.

“We are listening to the concerns and worries that people have but we have good quality candidates who are in a position to deliver on these issues.

“We’re concentrating on having a positive campaign.

“We have to get out there and maximise our support right across constituencies.”

Mr Brennan, who is a son of the late Fianna Fáil stalwart Seamus Brennan, said he was listening closely to people on the canvass trail.

“Of all the Fianna Fáil candidates that are running in these elections, I probably have it easiest, because of the good work that my dad has done over the past 30 years and the respect in which he was held in Dublin South,” he said.

“The feedback that I have been getting outside the schools, the churches and the doorsteps is that the people of Dublin South would like me to continue that tradition.”

He added: “To be a good constituency politician, you have to do more of the listening than the talking.”

Rejecting weekend opinion polls suggesting his support was as low as 9% in the constituency, he said: “Our own numbers would put us right up there, certainly within striking distance.”

Fianna Fáil MEP Eoin Ryan, who is seeking re-election, said people in his Dublin constituency seem to be more informed and enthusiastic about the EU than during the Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign a year ago.

As he campaigned alongside Mr Cowen, Mr Ryan explained: “I think people are seeing the importance of Europe now. I think they realise that Europe is essential to our economy now.

“They are less taken in by the spurious arguments for example which were put about in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.”

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