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Cowen Quits Fianna Fail but remains Taoiseach

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has stepped down as the leader of Fiànna Fàil, just days after passing a vote of confidence within the parliamentary party.

Mr Cowen, has endured one of the most turbulent weeks of his political career since he took over as Taoiseach in 2008. However despite quitting as leader of Fiànna Fàil, he has vowed to stay on as Taoiseach.

He said he felt his continued leadership of the party was distracting from the issues facing Ireland in the run-up to the election.

The prime minister – or Taoiseach – said: “I’m concerned that renewed internal criticism of Fianna Fail is deflecting attention from this important debate.

“Therefore, taking everything into account after discussing the matter with my family I have taken, on my own counsel, the decision to step down.”  

He added: “The government will continue to govern the country.”

The opposition Labour party has tabled a motion of no confidence in the government and there will be a vote on it next week.

Fianna Fail will choose a new leader through an internal party vote next week, Mr Cowen said.

The front-runners to succeed him are Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and  former Minister for Foreign Affairs, who resigned from government earlier this week.  

The shock announcement is the latest twist in the crisis gripping the Irish government.

Mr Cowen last week tried to reshuffle his cabinet .However, the reshuffle backfired spectacularly when it was opposed by the Green party, partners in Fianna Fail’s coalition.

The move further weakened the Taoiseach`s position within his own party and within the government.

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