Ireland’s Leader Quits Party But Stays Prime Minister
Ireland’s Prime Minister Brian Cowen bowed to pressure from members of Fianna Fail on Saturday and resigned as the party’s leader, but said he would continue to serve as premier until a March 11 election.
Cowen’s decision to split the role of party leader and prime minister is highly unusual and crowns a week of political drama that had Irish people shaking their heads in anger.
Many blame Cowen for mishandling the economic crisis and allowing a disastrous property bubble to develop during a previous stint as finance minister.
The meltdown that ensued forced the country to accept an 85 billion euro ($115 billion) bailout from the EU and IMF late last year.
„He should have gone months ago to preserve some kind of dignity for himself and for the office,” said Tony Moore, a vegetable delivery man in central Dublin. „Just look at the country’s standing abroad, we’re a laughing stock.”
Under pressure from his party for weeks, Cowen called a vote of confidence in his leadership at the start of the week. He won that but squandered the victory a few days later when an ill-judged attempt to reshuffle his cabinet nearly brought down his administration.
„This is the right thing to do for the party,” Cowen said at a hastily arranged address to the media at a Dublin hotel. „We will manage the situation and people need to be assured of that. The government will discharge its duties properly and appropriately. It doesn’t in any way affect government business.”
Enda Kenny, the leader of the main opposition party, Fine Gael, slammed Cowen’s move and said he would table a motion of no-confidence in the prime minister on Tuesday unless he called an immediate election.