Reports are now circulating that Brian Cowen may well step down this afternoon. Mary Coughlan the Deputy Prime Minster will takeover on a temporary basis and a Fianna Fail election for leader would take place next week.

An election is now likely to be sooner rather  than later if this happens and a date around February 17th has been discussed.

Earlier today Irish Times journalist Brian O'Connell  tweeted that two ministers in Cowen's government, Finance Minster Brian Lenihan and Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, will lead an attempt to topple Cowen at a parliamentary meeting on Thursday at 3pm, Irish time.

A senior minister told Ireland’s state broadcaster RTE that “that may well happen”. David Davin-Power, RTE’s political correspondent said some of Mr Cowen supporters have said that he has been weakened by revelations of his contacts with former Anglo Irish Bank boss, Sean Fitzpatrick.

Sources at Newstalk radio and the Irish Independent also reported that a move to replace the unpopular Cowen was imminent. An Irish Independent reporter tweeted 'game on' at 1.15 a.m, Irish time.

The website also reported that a coup was imminent. founder David Cochrane wrote, " understands that Newstalk is likely to report that Brian Lenihan and Micheal Martin have made some sort of agreement, with at least 20 Fianna Fail TDs expected to support a motion to have Cowen removed as leader."

At around 12.30am Fine Gael's Simon Coveney tweeted "Very strong rumours about unrest in FF and a potential motion of no confidence tomorrow - hard to know if it will happen or just speculation".

Others sources were stating that members opposed to Cowen within Fianna Fáil had gathered the 18 names necessary for a no confidence motion.

Cowen is extremely unpopular but his removal would lead to an interesting test of whether his successor as head of Fianna Fail could get elected as Prime Minister, which needs a majority vote in the Irish parliament.

If Fianna Fail are changing horses before the imminent election it is a sign of the desperation in the party which only rated at 14 per cent down from 44 per cent in the last election.

A Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting is will take place at 3pm today (13 January).