Timeline of unraveling leadership


Below is a timeline charting one of the most dramatic weeks in Irish politics that included a failed leadership bid, six ministerial resignations, a botched Cabinet reshuffle and threats to pull down the Government.

Thursday, January 13th: Taoiseach Brian Cowen privately lines up a pre-election Cabinet reshuffle but is sidetracked when speculation mounts over a possible leadership heave.

He convenes a parliamentary party meeting and tells TDs and Senators he will consult with them privately and in person over the next 48 hours to assess if he should stay on.

Sunday, January 16th: Mr Cowen defends his position, claiming he has the support of the majority of the party. He calls a confidence vote in his leadership to be held at the next parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday.

Micheál Martin offers his resignation as minister for foreign affairs and calls on Mr Cowen to step down as leader.

Mr Cowen informs Green Party leader John Gormley he intends to stay on as Fianna Fáil leader and mentions a possible reshuffle. Mr Gormley tells him it is a bad idea.

Monday, January 17th: Ministers and TDs spend the day briefing for or against the Taoiseach, who appears to have a slim majority wanting him to stay. Most claim it is too late to change leader.

Tuesday, January 18th: Mr Cowen survives the confidence vote. Mary O’Rourke claims the secret ballot was two-to-one in favour, others suggest the victory was by just one or two votes.

Wednesday, January 19th: Mr Gormley and his party colleagues Eamon Ryan and Dan Boyle hold talks with the Taoiseach over the timing of an election.

The Greens claim they came away thinking that a reshuffle and new Cabinet appointments were not on the table. Fianna Fáil TDs dispute that.

Minister for Health Mary Harney announces her resignation at 9pm. Mr Gormley knows nothing about it until his wife tells him after watching the news.

Three other ministers who are not running in the election resign at 11pm; Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey and Minister for Defence Tony Killeen. Mr Gormley says he first heard about it on an RTÉ’s news bulletin the following morning.

Thursday, January 20th: Mr Gormley rings Mr Cowen after 7am and says the resignations are a serious matter and calls for a meeting.

8.30am: The two sides come together in the first of a series of meetings to discuss the affair. The Greens are adamant they warned they would not support any new ministerial appointments.

Batt O’Keeffe becomes the fifth Cabinet casualty in 12 hours.

11am: The Dáil is suspended amid accusations that Mr Cowen is seeking to pull a political stunt by filling Cabinet posts with election candidates.

1.30pm: The Taoiseach outlines in the Dáil the reassignment of ministries among sitting Cabinet members and the election date of March 11th.

4.45pm: The Greens detail their lack of prior knowledge about the ministerial resignations and their attempts to stop the posts being filled.

Friday, January 21st: Former minister for finance Ray McSharry publicly talks of his dismay with the week-long revelations.

Minister of State Conor Lenihan likens the unprecedented events to “car crash politics” while Mr Martin urges senior figures to reconsider their views on the leadership over the weekend.

Mr Cowen denies he should stand down, and says he intends to lead the party into the election and beyond. He says the leadership issue is resolved.

Saturday, January 22nd: After consulting with his family Mr Cowen decides to resign as party leader.

Arrives at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin and announces decision. Says he will remain as Taoiseach.

Mr Martin, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív and Minister for Tourism Mary Hanafin put themselves forward for the leadership vote, which is to be held next Wednesday.