Ireland could have its first major female Prime Minister with the announcement by Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin that she will likely contest the leadership of Fianna Fail.

It is widely expected that current leader Brian Cowen will step down after the imminent election and Hanafin could lead Fianna Fail into the next general election.

There is also a possibility that Cowen may step down before the campaign making his successor  as head of Fianna Fail the Prime Minister providing a majority in the Irish parliament vote for her.

Hanafin, a Tipperary native, now resident in Dublin, is the second favorite behind Foreign Minister Michael Martin to take the job according to bookmakers.

While current health minister Mary Harney was head of the Progressive Democrats that was a much smaller party and she never had a realistic shot at Prime Minister.

 Hanafin stated that she would be interested in contesting the leadership of Fianna Fáil if a vacancy arises in the future.

Speaking in Dublin she said that if the leadership was to become available in the future she would definitely contest it.

And in an early move to garner support she attacked the Green Party for announcing they were leaving the coalition with Fianna Fail saying she was not convinced that the Green Party has the best interests of the country at heart.

 Hanafin said she was “annoyed” by the way  in which the party had called for an election yesterday, something she said she had not expected.

But she said she and Fianna Fáil would 'work with them' in order to pass the Budget and the four-year economic plan.