AS THE CONFIDENCE vote in Taoiseach Brian Cowen draws nearer, speculation is growing that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is likely to kill off Micheal Martin’s challenge by declaring support for Cowen.
Lenihan is expected to announce his intention to back Cowen after a cabinet meeting and before the parliamentary vote, the Irish Examiner reports. This show of support from Lenihan – who has been marked as a possible contender for Fianna Fáil’s leadership – will strengthen Cowen’s position and may sway others’ votes.
Cowen himself has expressed confidence ahead of today’s vote, saying he is “absolutely convinced” that he will emerge victorious this evening, the Irish Times reports.
On last night’s Frontline programme on RTÉ, Mary Hanafin refused to say how she would vote but said she would tell her parliamentary party in advance of today’s secret ballot. She also reiterated that if there is a vacancy, she wants to be considered for it.
Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, who has called for a change of leadership, is said to be interested in taking over the party after a general election if he fails to displace Cowen tonight, the Irish Independent reports.
Speaking on Morning Ireland this morning, Noel Dempsey insisted that he hadn’t been canvassed “by anyone” in relation to the vote; he added that while he had been speaking to Martin, they had note talked about the leadership issue. He described Cowen as an “upright man”.
Also speaking on Morning Ireland, Micheál Martin said that he had not solicited the support of any of his colleagues in his attempted heave, but that “many deputies” had come to him with concerns about the party going into “freefall”.
“Tonight is about the survival of the party itself,” Martin said, “The fundamental question is: Would the party be better, coming into the election, with a new leader?”
He said that the decision to challenge Cowen’s leadership was based on “no one moment”, however he pointed to Cowen’s management of the IMF coming into the country as “a watershed moment”. He also said that Fianna Fáil had been too cautious in terms of some policy initiatives.
However, Martin said that both he and Cowen wished for the matter to be conducted in a way that was “civil, open, free of acrimony” and added that his resignation ”remained on the table” if the party expressed confidence in the taoiseach today.
Cowen told RTÉ’s Aine Lawlor that Martin’s continued offer of resignation “will be considered by me after the vote”, should he win.