Irish PM Brian Cowen takes on foreign affairs portfolio

Brian Cowen
Image caption The Irish prime minister Brian Cowen will take on the foreign affairs portfolio.

Irish prime minister Brian Cowen has told the government he will be taking on the foreign affairs portfolio.

On Tuesday he won a confidence vote in his leadership of the ruling Fianna Fail party.

Mr Cowen's leadership has been opposed by Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, who left the government following the ballot.

Mr Cowen said that Irish president Mary McAleese had accepted the resignation of Micheal Martin.

The date of the General Election was discussed on Wednesday at a meeting between Brian Cowen and Green Party leader John Gormley.

The meeting came after the Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday.

The Irish prime minister had been under pressure because of falling opinion poll ratings in the wake of the EU and IMF bail out.

Speaking to RTE after the vote, Mr Cowen said he was very pleased that his desire to continue in his post had been vindicated by the secret ballot.

He has been subject to press scrutiny following revelations about contacts with former head of Anglo Irish Bank Sean Fitzpatrick shortly before he announced a bank guarantee in 2008.

Mr Cowen made a statement on the issue to the Dail last week, stressing that he had done nothing wrong.

He later pledged to consult with party colleagues about his future for 48 hours.

The process that concluded on Tuesday night after Mr Cowen the confidence vote and said he wished to lead the party into a general election.

The voting figures for the ballot have not been released but Mr Cowen needed to secure at least 36 of the 71 votes to win.

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