Taoiseach Brian Cowen is a political dead man walking and while Galway’s four Fianna Fáil TDs have all pledged their support to him, it seems the Galway East TDs feel his leadership will only last until the end of the next General Election.
Brian Cowen’s exceedingly minimalist reshuffle created discontent among the Fianna Fáil backbenchers over the weekend and led rebel TD John McGuinness to call on the Taoiseach to “consider his position”.
As the Government’s popularity continues to plummet questions have arisen about how long Cowen can continue as Taoiseach before a backbench revolt ousts him from power.
However Galway’s four Fianna Fáil TDs - Galway West’s Éamon Ó Cuív and Frank Fahey and Galway East’s Noel Treacy and Michael Kitt - are downplaying the unrest, claiming it is coming only from a small number of TDs, and that the party is sticking behind its current leader.
“Really John McGuinness is the only one calling for Brian Cowen to go,” Frank Fahey told the Galway Advertiser. “There are people disappointed at not being promoted, which is normal, but I believe the vast majority want to see the Taoiseach and the Government get on with the job.”
Dep Noel Treacy agrees: “There are only five people I have heard who are calling on Brian Cowen to go and three of them are from Carlow-Kilkenny, and that is because they were disappointed they didn’t get a junior ministry.”
All four TDs have pledged their support to Brian Cowen, with the strongest pledges of loyalty coming from the Galway West TDs.
“I’m standing behind Brian Cowen,” said Éamon Ó Cuív, who Cowen recently appointed Minister for Social Protection. “He has had an incredibly difficult time with the events that have unfolded, but he has not flinched from making the hard decisions and I think in time the decisions Brian Cowen has had to make will be seen as the right ones.”
Dep Fahey said: “I have always been loyal to the leader of Fianna Fáil despite who it is. I am very definitely very loyal to Brian Cowen. It is important we play as a team now, get on with making the hard decisions, and bring the country through these hard times.”
Dep Treacy said he would not be in favour of removing Brian Cowen and denied there is a growing urge within Fianna Fáil to get rid of him.
“It doesn’t matter who you put in to lead, the country will still be under the same situation,” he said. “There are no signs of any moves to unseat him and of people coming forward who want to be leader, but every Fianna Fáil leader has had to deal with this.”
Dep Treacy added that he did not see any “immediate challenge”, while his constituency colleague Michael Kitt said “John McGuinness is looking towards the next election”. As a result, it is highly likely that if Fianna Fáil are hammered at the next election, TDs will demand that Cowen go.
Dep Kitt said a problem with Cowen’s leadership is an inability to communicate a message to the public. “We are not getting our message across,” he said. “It’s affecting our organisation as well and we don’t feel as motivated as TDs and senators are to work as hard for the party.”
However he added that all sectors of the party are guilty of this.
“In the last election Brian Cowen took the party by the scruff of the neck and helped us win,” he said. “I still believe he has it in him as he did before to turn things around but we have to communicate that. It’s up to all of us, TDs and senators, not just the leadership.”