Belfast Telegraph

There is no vacancy, says Cowen

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has warned opponents there is no vacancy in his office as he offered to sit down with disgruntled party colleagues over his under-fire leadership.

Amid anger and embarrassment over his connections to senior Anglo-Irish officials as the bank collapsed, Mr Cowen admitted concerns need to be addressed.

The Taoiseach will face a vote of no confidence in the Dail within weeks.

"I have not considered resigning. I have not said to anyone I'm stepping down," the Taoiseach said. "I am committed to leading this party, there is no vacancy, there is no probationary period. I am the leader of the party."

Mr Cowen is expecting concerned TDs and Senators to contact him by phone over the next 48 hours.

Matters came to a head after the Taoiseach was publicly grilled in the Dail on Wednesday on his Anglo contacts, with coalition partner the Green Party saying it has concerns about the new detail.

Under pressure, Mr Cowen revealed the names of two other business chiefs who joined him and bankrupt former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick for dinner in Druid's Glen - Gary McGann, chief executive of Smurfit Kappa, who was a director of Anglo at the time, and Alan Gray, an economic consultant who was on the board of the Central Bank.

Mr Cowen addressed a delayed Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting with 10 minutes of fighting talk where one insider claimed he "put it up" to his opponents.

No Cabinet minister asked him to step down, he said, but it is understood five TDs spoke on the leadership and three challenged Mr Cowen.

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain, who leads a newly formed Technical Group in the Dail, tabled the Dail motion of no confidence in the Government but it may be as late as March before the motion can be heard.

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