Irish Prime Minster Brian Cowen, who was accused  of being drunk during an RTE interview earlier this month, promised to change his lifestyle at a meeting for Fianna Fail cabinet ministers last week in a bid to stave off the threat of challenge to his leadership. He did not, however, say he would quit alcohol.

"He was entirely contrite, entirely upfront and contrite," a government source told the Irish Independent.

Sources within the Government have described the prime minister as being "on his final chance.”

Said a senior source, "He is not safe yet, but he is on safer ground for the moment, if you know what I mean."

Cowen left the meeting with the opinion that he would not be challenged for the leadership. He is aware, however, that several of his colleagues would not have objected an offer of his resignation.

In an opinion poll last week, 71 percent of people though that the prime minister’s credibility had been damaged as a result of the RTE interview.

Cowen has privately revealed to a few colleagues that he intends to significantly reduce his intake of alcohol, and to curb his smoking habit, although he is said to believe that the severity of his socializing is exaggerated.

Said one of Cowen’s close colleagues, "Brian is aware that no matter where he goes now, people will be counting the number of pints he might have.”