Kenny criticised over 'private' resignation as Taoiseach at áras
Fine Gael TDs have been forced to publicly defend their under-pressure leader Enda Kenny after a decision was taken to keep his historic resignation from office under wraps.
Mr Kenny has been criticised after it was ensured his formal meeting with President Michael D Higgins on Thursday, during which he tendered his resignation, was a private affair.
The meeting took place at approximately 9.30pm - around 90 minutes after the adjournment of the Dáil. Although media outlets were invited to attend Áras an Uachtaráin on February 3 following the announcement of the General Election, no such invitation was issued ahead of Mr Kenny's resignation.
A Government spokesman yesterday said it was never intended that the meeting be anything other than private.
"There is no precedent for making the resignation of a Taoiseach a public or media event," he said. "No decision was made except to follow that precedent. No communication was made to the media to the contrary at any stage."
It was also stated that previous meetings involving the resignation of a Taoiseach were also kept private.
"It is our understanding that on previous occasions these meetings at the Áras were also private. It should be noted that, as was the case yesterday, previous Taoisigh made a statement to the Dáil about their resignation which was the subject of current affairs coverage and a matter of historic record," he said.
While there was staunch criticism of the decision privately, a number of Fine Gael politicians defended Mr Kenny.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said Mr Kenny had endured a long day in the Dáil. "It was a very long day and we were very late in the Dáil and everybody knew what he had to do so he just went up and did it," she told reporters last night.
Asked about the media not being informed of the arrangements at the President's residence, Ms Fitzgerald replied: "I don't know the details of how it was planned."
Dublin Bay South deputy Eoghan Murphy yesterday also cited the long Dáil session Mr Kenny sat through. "I think this has been overstated in the media. I think it was a long day. This was something he had to do late at night, (go) to Áras an Uachtaráin. He thought it was important to do it yesterday, as did the President," he said.
But privately, a number of Fine Gael figures last night criticised Mr Kenny's decision, saying it sent out a bad message to the public.
"He should have shown more respect to the public - after all, he was resigning from one of the most important public offices in the land," said a Fine Gael minister.
A second minister said he believed Mr Kenny wanted to be spared the "embarrassment" of resigning from office. "He is now a caretaker Taoiseach - it's not a nice situation," the source said.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) also described the manner in which the resignation took place as "disappointing".
"In terms of recording things for history, I think it is unfortunate this didn't happen. And I think all politicians need to realise public events are not just for when it suits them," the union's general secre tary Seamus Dooley told the Irish Independent.
Social Democrats co-leader Stephen Donnelly said the resignation was "a matter of national interest" and "a serious event".
"I think an event like that is a matter of State and should ideally be open and transparent," he told the Irish Independent, while sympathising with Mr Kenny "on a human level".