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Backbenchers attack Lenihan over 'misleading' intentions

John McGuinness and Michael Kennedy say Brian Lenihan’s endorsement of the Taoiseach is not what they’d expected.

Brian Lenihan leaves RTÉ after his interview on the News at One today.
Brian Lenihan leaves RTÉ after his interview on the News at One today.
Image: Peter Morrison/AP

FINANCE MINISTER Brian Lenihan has been accused of misleading backbench members of the Fianna Fáil party about his desires to lead Fianna Fáil by two of his party colleagues.

The minister finally ended speculation about his intentions by telling RTÉ’s News at One today that he would be supporting Brian Cowen in this evening’s motion of confidence – but Lenihan immediately faced fire from John McGuinness, an outspoken critic of Cowen’s tenure, who said Lenihan had “encouraged dissent”.

“I think what Brian Lenihan has been saying to you is not what he has been saying to the backbenchers,” McGuinness said, saying Lenihan had told him and others that he did have ambitions for the leadership – a point Lenihan had denied on the news.

McGuinness’s comments were echoed by his Dublin North colleague Michael Kennedy, who told Matt Cooper on Today FM: “I have to be honest and say I am really disappointed with him [Lenihan].

“Any discussion I’ve had with Brian Lenihan… he has shared my own view that our poll ratings very disappointing. I never asked directly [...] but I would certainly have been of the view that Brian Lenihan would like to be the leader of Fianna Fáil.

Lenihan’s movements had, Kennedy said, encouraged backbenchers to be more outspoken against Cowen.

The Fianna Fáil meeting has gotten underway at Oireachtas buildings on Kildare Street; the Tánaiste, Mary Coughlan, is to second the motion of confidence in Cowen.

It is thought that Cowen will address the party meeting after the result is confirmed, irrespective of whether he wins or not.

All but one of the 71 Fianna Fáil TDs are expected to be present; justice minister Dermot Ahern will be absent, having had a hip operation, but will vote by proxy.

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Gavan Reilly

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