Irish premier resigns as party leader, stays as PM

Prime Minister Brian Cowen announced Saturday he has resigned as leader of Ireland’s dominant Fianna Fail party but intends to keep leading the government through the March election.

Cowen’s surprise move capped a week of political crises that brought his coalition government to the brink of collapse. Never before in Irish history has a politician sought to remain prime minister without being leader of the main government party.

Furious party colleagues called for Cowen to quit as Fianna Fail chief after he bungled an attempted pre-election Cabinet reshuffle Thursday. The other party in Cowen’s government, the Greens, blocked his plan to promote six new faces into Cabinet posts – and Cowen, inexplicably, failed to anticipate their veto.