FF TDs urge Cowen to resign


There have been calls for the Taoiseach to resign from within his own party today after the Green Party today called for a general election.

Green Party leader John Gormley this morning informed Brian Cowen of his party's decision to pull out of Government. His party is seeking an election by the second half of January, although Mr Gormley said it was up to Mr Cowen to set the date for the poll.

Elsewhere, two of the three Independent TDs on whose support the Government relies today said they would consider their positions.

Three Fianna Fáil TDs have today called on their party leader to stand down.

Speaking this afternoon, Fianna Fáil backbencher Sean Power urged Mr Cowen to make a statement this evening and announce his intention to resign. "At this stage the country has lost faith in him, and I think it needs a new opportunity," he said on RTÉ's Liveline.

"I appreciate we are in a very difficult situation . . . it might be necessary for him to remain on in office for a few days, but I think he should make it quite clear today that it is not his intention to continue leading this country. I think it needs a fresh start," Mr Power said.

"The credibility of the man is gone. The country deserves a new leader."

Mr Power also called for discussions over the next few days with the Opposition parties to see if the budget could be passed with their support next month. He said a general election would have to be called and held before Christmas if that support could not be secured.

Citing "uncharted waters", Mr Power said this was not just a Fianna Fáil problem but one for the State at large and so it was important agreement was reached on passing the budget on December 7th. Mr Power said he felt there was time to get a new party leader before the budget.

The backbencher refused to be drawn on who the new Fianna Fáil leader might be.

Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central  Noel O'Flynn also called on Brian Cowen to resign both as Taoiseach and as party leader.

Mr Flynn, who recently threatened to resign the party whip if the budget contains proposals to reduce the old-age pension, said party members and supporters had been misled by the Government over the last week.

He also claimed Mr Cowen has "lost credibility" with people.

"The public, as a result of last week were living in fear of the unknown, are deeply disappointed and angry about their future for themselves and their family," he said on TodayFM's The Last Word.

"It is my belief now that the actions of the Government and of the Taoiseach...he has lost credibility with the people of the State and the only course of action for him now is to resign as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil.

"For the good of the country and the Fianna Fáil party I believe he should announce his resignation to take effect after the Budget and allow a new leader to be elected to lead us into an election where the people will decide the outcome," he added.

Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin South East Chris Andrews this afternoon backed calls for Mr Cowen to resign as leader of the party.

"In light of the developments of the past week and today particularly, I have taken the difficult decision to call on Brian Cowen to stand down as leader."

"Prior to today, I have raised concerns within the Parliamentary Party in relation to Brian Cowen's ability to lead and communicate effectively. However, given the crisis we now face as a country, I feel I must state this publicly.

"I believe the priority for Ireland now is to get a Budget in place and passed and I would like to see negotiations commence between all parties immediately to ensure this happens, for the sake of the country. However, if agreement cannot be reached I believe we should have an immediate general election.

Party colleague and former minister Mary O'Rourke said the party should meet early in January to discuss "the leadership business" and the future for the party.

Asked about backbenchers' feelings on the leadership, Mrs O'Rourke said they were confused. "They are all wishing that the budget was through and that the plan would get through, but all, I think, in agreement that we can't run around in circles anymore, that we have to get the leadership question out, talked about, decided on in a vote if necessary."

Mrs O'Rourke said there was "distinct worry" among Fianna Fáil backbenchers over the future for the party. "I would wish that we would come together as a parliamentary party . . not wait on and muddle on."

Speaking on RTÉ radio, she refused to be drawn on whether she supported Mr Cowen leading the party into an election.

Bookmaker William Hill have opened betting on the next Fianna Fáil leader with Micheal Martin established as 4/5 favourite for the position.

Mary Hanafin is at 2/1 to take over as leader with Dermot Ahern at 4/1 and Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan at 6/1.

The bookmaker is also offering odds of 20/1 that the Fianna Fáil party will be disbanded before the end of 2012.