16 Jan 2011

Irish PM ‘will stay on as party leader’

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen has said that he will stay on as leader of the Fianna Fail party for the best interests of the country after calls for his resignation.

Ireland's PM Cowen addresses a news conference after an EU leaders summit in Brussels in December (Reuters)

Speaking to a press conference, Mr Cowen said he had come to the conclusion that stepping down would lead to confusion and loss of authority.

The Irish Taoiseach said:

“I’ve come to the conclusion that I should continue to lead the party. I believe this to be in the best interest of the stability of the government, the country and our party.

“I believe that any issue regarding my leadership of Fianna Fail should be resolved immediately, I have therefore decided to place a motion of confidence in my leadership before next Tuesday’s parliamentary meeting.

“The vote will be by secret ballot.”

Cowen had been in discussion with is Fianna Fail party members for the last few days whether to stay on as leader, amid growing concerns of his ties with disgraced bankers.

Cowen has faced much criticism for his handling of the economic crisis there, since Ireland was forced to seek a bailout of 85 billion Euros from EU and the IMF late last year.

On Thursday Cowen made clear he did not intend to resign, but there have been rumours of an internal push against him following the Irish bailout.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin, who is favourite to replace Cowen, have said they are keen to lead the party should a vacancy arise.

The ruling coalition government has only a slim minority in parliament and a general election was expected in spring.

An immediate poll would mean shelving the Finance Bill but that would not harm the country’s deficit goals agreed under an EU/IMF bailout package because the tax measures have taken effect and spending can still take place as planned.

A new government, likely made up of the centre-right Fine Gael party and the left-wing Labour Party, is committed to the deficit goals and would likely pass the Finance Bill.