How both camps square up
Published 15/06/2010 | 05:00
THE 69 members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party were contacted by the Irish Independent yesterday to assess their position on the leadership of Enda Kenny.
The tally last night showed Mr Kenny had the clear backing of 26 members of the parliamentary party. Another four members had firmly supported Mr Kenny the previous day.
So far, only three members of the parliamentary party are opposed to Mr Kenny's leadership -- Mr Bruton himself, transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd and Senator John-Paul Phelan. But another 36 are sitting on the fence.
FINE Gael MEP Gay Mitchell became one of the most prominent party members to publicly back his leader yesterday.
Richard Bruton, as a Dublin-based TD, should command huge support from fellow TDs and senators in the capital.
But last night many such as James Reilly, Alan Shatter and Sean Barrett had all joined Team Enda.
They were led by Mr Mitchell, who said a leadership challenge was the "wrong thing to do".
"It's really crazy when there's a vote of confidence in the Government to be concentrating people's views on Fine Gael," he said.
Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly said: "The leader had to act and he did so decisively. How could he do anything else? But it's a very sad day for Fine Gael and a sad day for Richard Bruton, a man who I have huge admiration for."
But some of the other Dublin TDs and senators, who are sitting on the fence, are known to be supportive of Mr Bruton.
Mr Kenny may have to look at shoring up his base in Leinster.
Although he has received backing from several party figures in the region, his transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd has publicly declared for Mr Bruton and several others appear to be sitting on the fence.
Among those who could not be contacted yesterday to confirm their position were Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness, Fine Gael social protection spokeswoman Olwyn Enright, foreign affairs spokesman Billy Timmins, and Wexford TD Michael D'Arcy.
But Fine Gael Longford-Westmeath TD James Bannon left no doubt about where he stood by strongly backing Mr Kenny.
Fine Gael Wexford senator Liam Twomey was backing the man who persuaded him to join Fine Gael in 2004, after serving as an independent TD, saying: "Enda Kenny gave me my break . . . and I'm remaining loyal."
THE Fine Gael leader's home territory last night rallied to him. Out of 15 potential votes in the Ulster-Connacht constituencies, Mr Kenny had 10.
Northwest MEP Jim Higgins, who is based in Mr Kenny's constituency of Mayo, pledged 100pc support. He was joined by other Mayo-based TDs Michael Ring and John O'Mahony and by Senator Paddy Burke.
In neighbouring Galway, party chairman Padraic McCormack said he had to remain neutral. His constituency colleague Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames failed to return calls, while Galway East's Ulick Burke refused to take sides.
In Sligo-North Leitrim, Frank Feighan backed Mr Kenny based on the job he has done "resurrecting" Fine Gael.
But constituency colleague Denis Naughten, himself considered a future leadership candidate, couldn't be contacted.
In Donegal, Dinny McGinley pledged support to the Fine Gael leader, but Donegal North-East's new TD Joe McHugh made no public comment.
In Cavan-Monaghan, Mr Kenny won support from sitting TD Seymour Crawford and Senator Joe O'Reilly.
Bernard Allen from Cork North-Central said he "fully and equivocally" backed Mr Kenny.
"It would be suicide to be causing damage to the party to start changing leaders," he said.
PJ Sheehan, from Cork South-West, said he was "as solid as the rock on the Mizen Head" behind Mr Kenny, adding: "I would advise my colleagues (not to) change a horse in mid-stream."
But his constituency colleague, Jim O'Keeffe, said only: "I am in discussions with various colleagues."
Dan Neville, from Limerick East, stressed his "loyalty to my party and loyalty to my leader".
David Stanton, from Cork East, said: "We have a leader in place and he has my backing at this time."
Joe Carey, from Clare, said he didn't think it was the right time to change leader.
Tom Sheahan, from Kerry South, said he "placed a lot of emphasis on loyalty".