Confidence vote claims a victim

High-profile critic decides that he can no longer serve in government after challenging the Irish prime minister.

    Brian Cowen won. We expected him to. We predicted he would. And he did. The vote remains a secret, but I'm told he won by about 20 votes.

    The meeting to discuss confidence in the Irish prime minister lasted more than three hours. The members of his party who have seats in parliament, debated, discussed and decided he should be the man to lead Fianna Fail into the next parliamentary election.

    But less than an hour after the result was announced the vote of confidence claimed a victim.  Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, the most high-profile critic of the prime minister decided he could no longer serve in government and would resign.

    Standing on the steps of the Irish parliament in Dublin, he said he would give his party leader his full support a remarkable transformation in a few hours.

    There is no doubt he harbours hopes of leading the party after the next election - but people won't need long memories to remember this apparent show of disloyality.

    So Brian Cowan remains leader and prime minister - but with an election just weeks away and opinion poll ratings at an all time low, he might not be there for long.


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