Micheal Martin wins Fianna Fail leadership

Irish ex-Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, file image
Image caption Micheal Martin staged a leadership bid last week, helping to de-throne Brian Cowen

The Irish Republic's governing party has announced a new leader, days after Prime Minister Brian Cowen resigned his party post amid a long-running political and economic crisis.

Fianna Fail, long dominant in Ireland, announced the election of ex-Foreign Minister Micheal Martin on Twitter.

The party, which may face a general election next month, has slumped in the polls amid Ireland's financial crisis.

Parliament is soon expected to pass the government's austerity bill.

"Micheal Martin has been elected as the eighth Leader of Fianna Fail," the party said on its Twitter feed.

Mr Martin, 50, was elected a week after he launched a failed leadership challenge against Mr Cowen - a move that helped to fatally destabilise the prime minister.

Property bubble burst

Mr Cowen quit as party leader on Saturday, but announced he would stay on as prime minister.

Amid wide criticism of his decision, the Green Party pulled out of the governing coalition - meaning Mr Cowen is now in charge of a minority government.

However, the Greens said they would support the austerity measures, introduced into parliament as a finance bill.

Mr Cowen has promised to call an election when the bill passes - expected to be on Saturday.

The beleaguered prime minister had wanted to hold an election in March, but opposition politicians say they expect a vote on 25 February.

The Irish Republic was forced to accept the 85bn euro ($113bn; £72bn) bail-out from the EU and IMF in November last year.

Once known as the Celtic Tiger for its strong economic growth, the Irish economy had ridden high on a property bubble.

But when property prices crashed, the economy tanked, and several banks were left needing huge state handouts.

Analysts expect Fianna Fail to suffer a crushing defeat at the forthcoming election, as voters blame them for mismanaging the economy.