Leadership 'mutterings' drive Kenny to hold talks
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is to hold one-to-one meetings with all his TDs and senators -- at a time when there are renewed internal mutterings about his leadership.
Meanwhile, Brian Cowen's handlers are issuing instructions to the media about what questions the Taoiseach can be asked.
Within Fine Gael, there is also growing pressure for Mr Kenny to appoint star TD George Lee to his frontbench.
The party leader has come under fire over a number of poor performances, in particular his fumbling during his recent 'Late Late Show' interview.
But this was followed by Mr Kenny fluffing his lines on whether Fine Gael would bring in water charges.
After the Government survived the last three months of last year, a general election is -- at present -- not expected until 2012. However, a combination of Fianna Fail's bounce in the opinion polls and Mr Kenny's lacklustre displays has prompted criticism in certain quarters in Fine Gael.
Their parliamentary party meeting was cancelled this week, as Mr Kenny was in Brussels, and the party leader sent a note to all FG TDs and senators yesterday to set up his meetings.
"As I mentioned at last week's parliamentary party meeting, I hope to meet each TD and senator over the coming weeks.
"My office will make contact with you to schedule a date and time that suits you."
Fine Gael says Mr Kenny flagged these meetings months ago and their purpose is to discuss gearing up for the new year.
But a party source said the private meetings with TDs at this particular time were no coincidence as people had views about his leadership that couldn't be aired in public.
Mr Kenny was "disappointed himself" with the way 'The Late Late Show' worked out, a party frontbench member said, but added that there was no major discontent.
"He made a mistake. We'll be very happy any time we can get 34pc and Fianna Fail is on 27pc. I don't know what has to be done to keep some lads happy," the TD said.
Events recently had "added to the fire", but Mr Kenny had overwhelming support in the party, another TD said.
"You don't want to be giving people opportunities to criticise him and he has given two chances now.
"But if you said in 2002 we'd be on 34pc, people would laugh at you. Where we are today is down to Enda Kenny," the TD said.
Meanwhile, Mr Cowen is objecting to being questioned about national issues when he travels around the country.
In an unprecedented move, the Fianna Fail press office yesterday issued a schedule for Mr Cowen's trip to Cork this afternoon with the instruction "the Taoiseach will only take questions related to his visit to Cork".
Mr Cowen's spokesman said the Taoiseach would rather focus on the topics he is dealing with on the trip.
Ironically, Mr Cowen is conducting a questions-and-answers session with secondary-school students in Carrigtwohill beforehand. It is not clear if the 100 students of St Aloysius's College in Carrigtwohill will also be told to ask Mr Cowen only about local issues.