Cowen to stay the course

Late Wednesday night the rumour mill went into overdrive with the news that an apparent move to oust Brian Cowen as leader of Fianna Fáil was underway at Leinster House. This afternoon the rumours were put to rest with the announcement that Mr Cowen will not resign. By Alison Spillane

Speculation began on social networking site Twitter and was also a subject of discussion on message boards, as reported earlier by

Rumours died down somewhat overnight and the main story for both Newstalk's Breakfast Show and RTE's Morning Ireland was in relation to the Taoiseach's dining companions following a game of golf with Séan FtizPatrick and Fintan Drury at Druids Glen in 2008.

The revelations yesterday that the Taoiseach was joined for dinner by then Anglo director Gary McCann and economist Alan Gray (who sat on the board of the Central Bank) are believed to have angered many members of the parliamentary party, as Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath observed on Today with Pat Kenny this morning.

Around 10.30pm last night, Alan Gray issued a statement to confirm his attendance at the dinner. He stated that the purpose of the event was to discuss ideas to stimulate economic growth. He said that at no point was the state of Anglo Irish Bank discussed.

Indeed, the reaction of party members during Leader's Questions yesterday - when Mr. Cowen maintained there was nothing improper about his golf game with Séan FitzPatrick - was perhaps an indication of unrest within the party as deputies sat stoney-faced and few moved to support the Taoiseach.

However, at around 3.15pm this afternoon Newstalk broke the news that Cowen will not resign. The radio station reported that the Taoiseach will not step down but will meet with disgruntled Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators over the coming days to listen to their concerns. Party members who wish to mount a leadership challenge were instructed to table a motion of no confidence at next week's parliamentary party meeting.

Many commentators expected Cowen to stay on as leader, leading the party into the general election. It is widely anticipated this will be a disastrous election for the party, and some within Fianna Fáil may be hoping Mr Cowen could absorb the blow by resigning after the election, allowing the party to start afresh in Opposition with a new leader.

To date, 15 sitting Fianna Fáil TDs have announced they will not contest the general election; these include Minister for Justice & Law Reform Dermot Ahern, Minister for Defence Tony Killeen, and Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey.