Kenny puts on show of unity but insiders warn of another heave
FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny last night insisted his party is united -- but some TDs said his leadership was still in question.
Many TDs and senators reported an upbeat mood at a two-day parliamentary party 'think-in', maintaining that divisions caused by last June's heave were mostly behind the party.
Others said Mr Kenny was not out of the woods yet and claimed that some poor opinion poll results in the autumn could end up triggering another heave.
The parliamentary party gathering in Faithlegg House in Waterford is the first major party event since the failed leadership challenge by former finance spokesman Richard Bruton.
Mr Kenny maintained that Fine Gael was not split, but said it was united to bring down the Government.
"This is not a broken party, this is a party with a clear and definite plan to fix a broken country," he said.
"Our party has been strong enough and clear enough and mature enough to make its decision and we've moved on.
"We're now focussed on the job that is our responsibility, that is to remove this Government from office."
He said the party was now on an "election footing" and had to organise for an election which was now "not too far in the distant future".
"It's been all very positive so far," one TD said. "Everyone is focussed on planning for an election."
But others were not as upbeat about the state of the party, and indicated that Mr Kenny could still be in danger.
"Look, it depends who you talk to," one rebel TD said, when asked about the mood of the party.
"We think the result of the leadership vote went 38-32. And the way the polls are at the moment, Labour will win 35 to 40 seats in an election.
"It all depends on the polls. If the result is correct, there are six people here, who voted for Enda, that would want to think about winning seats at the election.
"We thought Richard would be damaged from challenging, but he is still liked by the public. There is no one else who can go for it."
The comments come after a summer when some TDs showed that tensions remained after the heave -- but they yesterday said the party had moved on.
In July, Dublin South-East's Lucinda Creighton told the MacGill Summer School in Donegal that there could be no room for "cute hoor" politics in Fine Gael.
Former education spoke-sman Brian Hayes also spoke out, saying "the jury is out" on Mr Kenny, who still had to prove himself.
But Mr Hayes, in a display of unity, arrived at the think-in yesterday with Mr Kenny's right hand-man, Kilkenny TD Phil Hogan.
Mr Hayes, now a backbencher after being sacked following the heave, said the entire party was united in replacing the "dreadful" coalition.
Mr Bruton and Ms Creighton also agreed that the party was united.
Mr Hogan and party strategist Frank Flannery addressed the party yesterday on their election strategy. The discussions focussed on nitty-gritty issues, including posters, tours and media planning.
Mr Kenny also said that any government announcement of the date for the three outstanding by-elections, in an effort to see off a court challenge from Sinn Fein, would be "tantamount" to calling a general election.
"It would be unthinkable for the Government to hold three by-elections which they will lose in the springtime with, for them, obviously an increasingly danger of a loss in the vote in the Dail," he said.