Kenny under fire over FG's slide in polls
Published 24/02/2013 | 04:00
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is under severe pressure from his own backbenchers to address Fine Gael's continuing slide in the polls – which has seen them fall behind Fianna Fail.
Mr Kenny was subjected to almost three hours of intense criticism from his own backbenchers, who are deeply concerned about the party's sustained fall in popularity.
According to several sources, Mr Kenny addressed the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting and asked TDs for their views and was confronted with a barrage of criticism about the lack of interaction between ministers and backbenchers, and about the failure of the Government to "effectively communicate its message".
"It was lively alright, there are a lot of worried people, and I don't think Enda realised what he was in for," said one senior TD. "People are very worried, the polls are bad and people are very concerned at the Fianna Fail numbers," said another.
At the meeting, the concern about the disconnect between ministers and party members was typified by a comment from Kildare TD Bernard Durkan who said: "Ministers should not forget where they came from," a source revealed.
Clearly concerned about the drop in the polls, Mr Kenny informed his TDs that he will appoint a political liaison director in a bid to boost communications within the party.
But the level of anger and concern within Fine Gael is palpable, after the Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll showed its support has slipped from 34 per cent to 25 per cent.
Waterford TD John Deasy said that the expressions of concern from his colleagues show the "political reality of being in government is dawning on some people".
"Look at where we are compared to two years ago: politically stable and the economy is recovering. But when you are in government and you have to make hard decisions, that has a knock-on impact on the polls and on people's chances of being re-elected."
Mr Deasy also said the Government missed a golden opportunity in the first year in office in not cutting deeper then, when the country expected it.
Galway East TD Paul Connaughton Jr, who is a member of the dissident 'Five a Side Club', said public anger was to be expected as they are "sick and tired of the cuts".
Many TDs who spoke, but did not want to be named, said the party must make far better use of the benefit of being in government or they risk being turfed out.
Donegal TD Joe McHugh said there is an "almighty disconnect" between the public and politics and called on the Government to show far more empathy to the public, who he said "are really hurting".
Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan expressed his concern at the meeting over the consequences for "morale in frontline services''.
He also warned that "a misconception had arisen that an effort was being made to eradicate all frontline pay'' and called for the cuts to be targeted in a manner where "those who can afford to contribute will contribute''.
Despite the tensions, Government support appears to be holding, according to a Red C poll published today.
FG remained steady on 28 per cent while Labour rose by one to 12 per cent. FF support jumped 5 points to 26 per cent. Sinn Fein and Independents both dropped 3 points. SF is now at 16 per cent with Independents on 18 per cent.