Monday 20 February 2017

Kevin Doyle: Kenny can't tell between his friends and enemies

Published 15/03/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

It is becoming increasingly difficult for acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny to differentiate between his friends and his enemies, so he's keeping everybody close.

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There has barely been a single word of criticism from his party hierarchy since the election bloodbath, and yet everyone accepts his days are numbered.

A quietly moving grey cloud is starting to creep over Mr Kenny's reign though, as those behind begin to jockey for position.

Simon Coveney is choosing his words very carefully ever since landing himself in very hot Irish Water just days after the election.

His apparent, if short lived, openness to the idea of doing a deal with Fianna Fáil on water charges annoyed his colleagues and ever since he has been walking on eggshells while trying to repair the damage.

At the same time Leo Varadkar is fighting the backbenchers' battle.

Sources say his public view that there is "no way" Fine Gael would allow a Fianna Fáil-led minority government is not the scripted one.

"Our mandate is not to put Micheál Martin in as Taoiseach," said a source, who pointed out that the Health Minister is singing a chorus from a songbook composed by the Fine Gael grassroots.

Meanwhile the other possible likely candidate for a leadership contest, Frances Fitzgerald, has barely been seen since polls closed on February 26.

The three ministers with their eyes on Kenny's job have taken very different approaches in recent days - but there's little doubt they are positioning themselves.

So it came as no surprise when they were picked to head up the Fine Gael negotiating team, along with the presentable young face of the party Simon Harris.

If he's fighting off Mr Martin to remain as leader of the country, Kenny is fighting a more silent war with Coveney, Varadkar and Fitzgerald to cling on at the top of Fine Gael.

It has been widely reported that it would take up to two months for a leadership contest in the party - but the rulebook actually suggests it could be done and dusted within 20 days.

None of the three can move while they have a central role in the government talks and Mr Kenny will apply 'collective responsibility' if the negotiations fail. Yet all are set to run when the time comes.

Irish Independent

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