Judgement day for Irish PM Cowen

IRISH Prime Minister Brian Cowen will face a vote of no confidence by his own Fianna Fail party today, with Ireland’s foreign minister saying that he will vote against his leader.

If Cowen is ousted, the move could spark a snap-election, which could throw into doubt the terms of Ireland’s €85bn (£71.2bn) bailout.

The Irish parliament has yet to hold a final vote on its 2011 budget, which would make cuts of €6bn and is a condition of its rescue package. The country’s governing coalition managed to pass initial votes on the cuts only with the help of independent MPs and promises of support for local initiatives.

The main opposition party, Fine Gael, has promised to attempt a renegotiation of the bailout if it wins power, with the aim of forcing losses on senior bondholders in Irish banks that had to be rescued. However, it admitted that doing so would require the ECB’s permission.

The no-confidence vote on Cowen was called after it emerged that he had met with the former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank a few months before its nationalisation, which was deeply unpopular.

Even if Cowen survives today’s vote by his party, his promise to call elections after passing the 2011 budget mean that he is unlikely to last long as Prime Minister.

In declaring his intention to vote against Cowen, foreign minister Michael Martin said: “I would be aware of cabinet ministers who would have similar views, let me put it that way to you, but it’s for them to make their views known.”

But a government whip denied that there was cabinet support to get rid of Cowen. Yields on Ireland’s 10-year debt edged up to 8.37 per cent yesterday.