Irish echo logo 750x550

Lenihan says he will back Cowen

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has said that he will be supporting Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the confidence motion at a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party this evening, RTE reports.

On RTÉ News At One, Lenihan said he believed tonight's secret ballot would bring the leadership issue to a conclusion.

Lenihan said he did not have the luxury of indulging his ambitions, because his priority at this time of economic crisis was to put the country first.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

"I made it clear at all stages that I was very flattered at their interest in me being leader of the party ... but made it clear that current financial matters made it impossible for me to disrupt the good working relationship."

Minister Lenihan added that Brian Cowen was the best person to "lead us into this election."

However, the Minister for Finance admitted he shared concerns expressed by fellow TD Willy O'Dea that Fianna Fáil might be punished at the polls.

Sources close to Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern have also confirmed that he intends to back Cowen in the vote.

It is understood Fianna Fáil is exploring whether Ahern, who is recovering from an operation in hospital, can be facilitated in casting his vote.

Meanwhile, Longford-Westmeath TD Mary O'Rourke said it was too late to look for a change in the leadership of Fianna Fáil.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, O'Rourke said there was not over-riding confidence among some parliamentary members in the taoiseach, but it would not make sense to go into the General Election with a new leader.

Another outgoing TD, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey has said he has confidence in Cowen to lead Fianna Fáil and the country.

Speaking at a Fianna Fáil selection convention for Meath West last night, Minister Dempsey said there is not a more honest, decent and upright politician in Dáil Éireann.

He said the taoiseach has battled with the economic crisis over the last two-and-a-half years. He said if Mr Cowen has not communicated well enough with the public, it was maybe because he was too busy doing the job he felt had to be done for this country.