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Ruling Irish party names new leader at end of power struggle

Micheal Martin has replaced Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen as their party's leader. The change came as the Irish parliament gave initial approval to a finance bill with austerity measures.

Micheal Martin

Martin rose through the party ranks during hard times

Ireland's ruling Fianna Fail party elected former Foreign Minister Micheal Martin its new leader, the party said in a Twitter message on Wednesday. The vote seemed to resolve a power struggle within center-right Fianna Fail that has gone on as Prime Minister Brian Cowen's government has crumbled.

Cowen is still Ireland's prime minister, and he won a vote of confidence that Fianna Fail held last week. But he stepped down from the party's leadership as support for his governing coalition collapsed, with the Green Party withdrawing from of the alliance on Sunday.

While stepping down, Cowen said he wanted Fianna Fail to be "free from internal distractions."

A graphic with euro bills wrapped in chains

Ireland's parliament approved spending cuts the same day as the leadership vote

His successor has represented the southern Irish city of Cork since 1989. Martin is considered strongly pro-European, having led the campaign for Irish voters to approve the European Union's landmark Lisbon Treaty. His reserved personality makes for a stark contrast with Cowen's robust public persona.

Fianna Fail's leadership vote came as Ireland's parliament narrowly approved a finance bill with roughly 6 billion euros ($8.2 billion) in austerity measures. The spending cuts and tax hikes were required for debt-ridden Ireland to receive an 85-billion-euro ($116.2 billion) bailout from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

Ireland's parliament was expected to give final approval to the austerity package on Saturday. The widely unpopular measures are likely to bring Fianna Fail down from power in national elections scheduled for February.

Author: Shant Shahrigian (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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