TAOISEACH Enda Kenny rather skilfully distracted attention away from his internal strife yesterday by dangling the attractive bauble of a Cabinet reshuffle.
In what a colleagues described as a “classic stroke”, Mr Kenny shifted the agenda at the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in away from the party rebels.
But there’ll be no getting away from the black sheep of the Fine Gael family when the Dail returns today for the autumn session.
The acrimonious departure over the abortion legislation before the summer break has been followed by a hardening of positions on both sides as the Dail returns.
Lucinda Creighton and her associates have called Mr Kenny’s bluff on his threat of preventing them from running as Fine Gael candidates in the next general election.
As a result, Ms Creighton and the other dissidents have formed the Reform Alliance as a means of coordinating their efforts within the Dail.
Unfortunately nicknamed ‘the RA’, the breakaway group has the potential to evolve into a fully fledged political party or even a loose collection of candidates running against Fine Gael at the next general election.
The Reform Alliance’s demand for speaking time in the Dail appears to have found an ally in Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett.
At a time of heightened tensions between the Government and the Ceann Comhairle, Mr Barrett has acted to afford recognition to those non-party TDs outside of the Technical Group.
The move does not just benefit the Fine Gael rebels but also the Labour Party outsiders.
Mr Barrett has changed Dail rules to give TDs who lost the Fine Gael and Labour whips more speaking time.
In what is being seen as a snub to the Government, the Ceann Comhairle has agreed to give the TDs speaking slots in the Dail.
The changes are understood to be most the Ceann Comhairle can do on his own, and come after the coalition ignored requests from Fine Gael and Labour TDs for greater speaking rights.
Expect the activities of the rebels - of various hues – to be observed closely today from 2:30pm.