Cowen faces crunch vote on leadership

Steve Dinneen
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IRISH Prime Minister Brian Cowen resisted calls for him to resign yesterday but will field a vote of confidence on his leadership tomorrow.

The Taoiseach said he expects to survive the vote from his Fianna Fail party despite several members calling for his head over allegations he played golf with the boss of Anglo Irish Bank just months before the lender was effectively nationalised.

However, his plans were almost immediately dealt a body-blow, with foreign minister Michael Martin, a popular party figure, announcing he will vote against his embattled leader.

Cowen insists his continued leadership in the run-up to a general election is important for the stability of “the party, the government and the country”.

He said: “As Taoiseach my total focus must remain with discharging my duties to the people. I have come to the conclusion that I should continue to run the party. I made no indication of resigning at any time.

“I am again heartened by the strong commitment by all of my colleagues and I am proud to serve alongside them.

“I am keenly aware that in putting the country first [over the bailout] this has impacted on our support levels. I support the strongly held opinions but we are all motivated by the same goals.”

Cowen has seen his support levels drop through the floor since he accepted an €85bn (£72bn) bailout from the IMF and members of the Eurozone. He was accused of lying to the country and incompetence in the lead-up to the rescue.

Cowen’s announcement came as further questions were asked about Ireland’s stricken lenders.

The Irish Central Bank was forced to increase its emergency liquidity support after a flurry of deposit withdrawals. Support to lenders from the central bank increased to more than €50bn in December last year.

Opposition party Fine Gael, which is expected to form a coalition government after the general election, has also called for the terms of the rescue deal to be renegotiated. The party says the €100m recapitalisation of the banking sector placed an unfair burden on the Irish taxpayer.