Lenihan, Hanafin silent on voting intentions in FF ballot


Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has declined to say how he intends to vote on the motion of confidence in Taoiseach Brian Cowen tomorrow evening.

He was repeatedly asked about his intentions when arriving at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels this evening but said that he would wait until tomorrow to make his decision clear.

Mr Lenihan, who has previously expressed an interest in leading Fianna Fáil, said Mr Cowen had “indicated that he's got majority support” ahead of the secret ballot of party TDs on his leadership.

Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin also declined tonight to state whether she would back Mr Cowen in the leadership ballot tomorrow but said she would make her views known to the parliamentary party before the ballot.

Speaking on RTE's Frontline programme, Ms Hanafin said she felt the Minister for Finance had "put it right" today when he said it was a party matter.

"I’m not in the business of trying to influence a party vote," Ms Hanafin said.

She confirmed that should a vacancy arise for the leadership of the Fianna Fáil party she would be interested in contesting it.

Asked by presenter Pat Kenny whether it was right to infer she did not have full confidence in Mr Cowen, Ms Hanafin said:

" It would be very easy for me to give a view but I don’t think it’s the appropriate forum to do it in."

"I will make my views known to the parliamentary party tomorrow."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin earlier said he knew of several senior Fianna Fáil members who would not support the motion of confidence.

Mr Martin, who last night said Fianna Fáil should change its leader, has not received public backing for such a move from any other Cabinet members.

Minister for Children Barry Andrews, Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith and Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey all offered their backing to Mr Cowen this afternoon. This evening, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey also came out in Mr Cowen's favour.

Chief whip John Curran, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, Minister of State for Mental Health John Moloney and deputy chief whip John Cregan also said they would support the Taoiseach.

Former minister for defence Willie O’Dea today said he would oppose the motion, as did Minister of State for Trade and Commerce Billy Kelleher and Cork backbencher Michael Moynihan.

Mr Cowen said he was confident of the outcome. He told Clare FM: “I had a very detailed consultation with all TDs in the party. I’m very heartened by that process”.

Mr Martin, who had his resignation from the Cabinet rejected last night, denied he was involved in any heave against Mr Cowen. “There may have been other moves by others afoot but it’s well known that prior to Christmas, I was not sounding out people in terms of a heave, I never have been.”

He also said that if Mr Cowen was defeated in the vote, he would continue to be Taoiseach. “There would be a contest for the party leadership…that party leader would take the party through the election campaign and Mr Cowen would carry on as Taoiseach,” he said.

Mr Martin told the Pat Kenny Show on RTÉ radio today the “sniping” within the party over the past 10 months has had a “destabilising” and “damaging” effect on the party. He said the issue was about “who can lead an effective, organised and vibrant [election] campaign and then thereafter rebuild the party”.

Mr Carey told RTÉ Drivetime he had not done the numbers but that his general sense was that a vote was usually called by “somebody who was reasonably confident of the outcome”. He said he had not spoken to Mr Martin for a few days but that he was not surprised to hear of his leadership ambitions.

Mr Kelleher said he would not be supporting the motion of confidence in Mr Cowen as "the time has come for a change in leader".

To ensure his survival at the helm, the Taoiseach must secure the support of at least 36 TDs. The meeting will take place in the Fianna Fáil party rooms in Leinster House at 5.30pm tomorrow. When the meeting opens, the motion will be tabled and TDs will be invited to speak.

One senior figure supporting Mr Martin acknowledged the outcome would be “tight and could go either way”. The Martin supporter, speaking on condition of not being named, said Mr Martin needed to shift the allegiance of at least 10 TDs.

A number of TDs, among them Minister of State Peter Power, said they would canvass opinion in their constituencies before making a decision ahead of tomorrow’s vote.

Mr Cowen said the issue of Mr Martin’s resignation may arise after the parliamentary party meeting.

“Micheál has made the offer of resignation and I told him that it is not something I would accept at the present time while this debate is going on and we’ll see in the aftermath of the parliamentary party meeting what the right and proper course of action to take is,” he said.

TDs who have declared their support for Brian Cowen

Mary Coughlan

John Curran

Barry Andrews

John Cregan

Brendan Smith

John Molony

Pat Carey

John Cregan

Noel Dempsey

Those who have declared against

Micheal Martin

Noel O’Flynn

Tom Kitt

Billy Kelleher

Michael Moynihan

Willie O’Dea

Conor Lenihan