Friday 28 April 2017

Furious rebels to blitz Kenny for firing Bruton

Fionnan Sheahan, Michael Brennan and Aine Kerr

UP to nine members of Fine Gael's frontbench are today expected to vent their anger at Enda Kenny's leadership and his bitter dismissal of Richard Bruton.

This morning's tense meeting is expected to give the strongest indication yet of support levels for both men as they slug it out for the Fine Gael leadership over the next 48 hours.

Among the frontbenchers perceived by backers of Mr Bruton as being angry with Mr Kenny's behaviour and leadership are Olivia Mitchell, Brian Hayes, Billy Timmins, Michael Creed, Olwyn Enright and Denis Naughten.

Despite their previous shows of support for Mr Kenny, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney were also being listed last night as raising questions about Mr Kenny's continued leadership.

But the ambitious young frontbenchers were silent on the leadership issue yesterday.

The Fine Gael frontbench will set the tone for the build-up to a crucial vote on Thursday when the 69 TDs, senators and MEPs in the parliamentary party will decide if Mr Kenny stays or goes.

It will be a culmination of a week of intrigue and internal tension within the party.

Mr Bruton finally revealed his hand for the first time last night in a scathing attack on Mr Kenny's overall ability and grasp of economic policy.

"I believe that he does not have the capacity at this stage to deal with the difficult problem that the country faces," he said.

"I believe that people have lost confidence in him."

Both sides claim to have sufficient support to win, although the initial momentum is with Mr Kenny as 26 party members publicly backed him yesterday.

His supporters are currently lobbying hard to shore up his leadership, amid rumours of deals for promotion being offered in return for support.

And there were suggestions of compromise candidates for leader being put forward, in the event of Mr Kenny not getting comprehensive support.

The failure of several frontbench members to come out and publicly back Mr Kenny over recent days is viewed as a sign of their dissatisfaction with his leadership.

Credibility

Mr Kenny's economic credibility won't be helped either by the emergence of a recording showing him being prompted by his chief spindoctor during an interview last week on banking and the economy.

Mr Kenny already faces a backlash from grassroots members over his decision to sack Mr Bruton before he had a hearing before the party frontbench.

But the move was widely seen as an effort to prevent Mr Bruton from ousting him today -- and it bought him time to sound out ordinary members.

Ironically, Fine Gael will today table a motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Brian Cowen, which Fianna Fail figures are relishing the prospect of throwing back at Mr Kenny.

Before Mr Bruton's sacking escalated the leadership crisis into all-out war, veteran TDs had appealed for an end to the public bloodletting as it was causing enormous damage.

Fine Gael rebels were warned against engaging in the "suicide" of seeking to remove Mr Kenny as leader.

"It would be suicide to be causing damage to the party to start changing leaders," Bernard Allen from Cork North-Central said.

Fine Gael sources claimed there were some within the party now arguing that both Mr Kenny and Mr Bruton were "damaged" and a "compromise candidate" might be required.

The reaction to Mr Bruton's demotion prompted a flood of calls to one TD, who said Fine Gael members were "irate" at the move. "Richard Bruton is the darling of the party for many people, who are furious at what's happened," the TD said.

Mr Kenny said he disagreed with Mr Bruton’s assessment of his economic credibility and said the timing of his move was appalling.

“It shows enormous political misjudgment,” he said.

Irish Independent

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