Friday 22 September 2017

Kenny in no hurry to put rebels out of their misery

Fiach Kelly and Fionnan Sheahan

FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny last night attempted to draw a line under the leadership heave that nearly toppled him as he confirmed that he will announce his new frontbench at the end of next week.

Speaking during a Fine Gael visit to Stormont outside Belfast yesterday -- accompanied by rebels Brian Hayes, Fergus O'Dowd and Joe McHugh -- Mr Kenny refused to be drawn on last week's events or the make-up of his new team

He said: "I'm not going to comment on anything to do with last week. I intend to make appointments next week. I've got a lot of people to talk to."

But he said he still had to speak to challenger Richard Bruton -- despite saying that he would like Mr Bruton back on the frontbench.

"When issues like this happen, people need time and space to consider the implications of all of that -- and I intend to give that to people," Mr Kenny added.

Despite being one of the key organisers behind Mr Bruton in last week's heave, Mr Hayes said he would serve on the frontbench if called upon.

But Mr Kenny will be unable to call on at least one of the so-called 'Gang of Nine' who challenged him. Foreign affairs spokesman Billy Timmins has confirmed that he will not put himself forward for reappointment to the party's frontbench.

Mr Timmins said he had told Mr Kenny last week that he wouldn't serve on the frontbench if Mr Kenny continued as leader -- and that he was now sticking to his stance.

The Wicklow TD's decision to rule himself out is further proof that the rift within the party will not heal as quickly as Mr Kenny has claimed.

Retaliation

Unlike other rebel members of the frontbench, Mr Timmins did not state publicly last week that he could not serve under Mr Kenny.

Although he made no adverse comments publicly about Mr Kenny's leadership, supporters of the party leader were tipping him to be dropped in retaliation for his role in the attempted leadership coup.

"Since the sacking of Richard Bruton, I have made no public comment on the affair either in the print or broadcast media," Mr Timmins told the Irish Independent.

"However, on Tuesday last, after the disbandment of the frontbench, I informed Enda Kenny that if he was successful in the (confidence) motion, I did not wish to be considered for the new frontbench. The situation doesn't change."

Mr Timmins and Mr Kenny are understood to have had a row after the party leader prevented his frontbench from discussing the leadership issue or the sacking of Mr Bruton as finance spokesman and deputy leader.

After Mr Kenny left the stormy frontbench meeting last Tuesday morning, Mr Timmins followed him down the corridor where the pair had an argument in an office.

Fine Gael frontbench members Denis Naughten, Simon Coveney and Michael Creed last night said they had not contacted Mr Kenny at the weekend over their places on the frontbench.

Some members of the so-called 'Gang of Nine' who spearheaded last week's heave contacted Mr Kenny's office, seeking talks with the leader.

A number of Mr Kenny's frontbench opponents contacted him in recent days but Mr Kenny is leaving the rebels hanging and refusing to engage with them until today at least.

Irish Independent

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