It has been a bad week for Taoiseach and backbenchers are getting restless
Published 08/07/2016 | 02:30
It's a circular problem: Enda Kenny says he will lead the Government for the full term in office - but he won't lead Fine Gael into the next general election.
Now, we don't really know how long this hybrid minority government will last. One good way of answering the unanswerable is to say Fianna Fáil will be very tempted to end its "facilitation" once its popularity begins to rise.
The how and when of Enda Kenny's exit process is a total puzzle. Early last month he told this newspaper he has a plan in his head. "I have a very clear understanding of what it is that I am going to do and I will set that out in due course," he said.
Yesterday's Ipsos-MRBI poll in 'The Irish Times' suggested we just may be headed into Fianna Fáil-friendly terrain. And it built on a similar finding in the 'Sunday Independent' Millward/Brown poll last week.
When the Ipsos-MRBI survey is compared with last February's general election, it puts Fine Gael at 24pc (down 2pc), Fianna Fáil 33pc (up 9pc), Labour 5pc (down 2pc), Sinn Féin 16pc (up 2pc) and Independents and Others 22pc (down 8pc). It all leaves Fianna Fáil with its best rating since mid-2008, before the known economic world fell asunder.
In the past four days, the Taoiseach has been publicly rebuffed by Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster on his idea for an 'all-Ireland forum' to handle the Brexit fallout.
He has also had to cave in to Independent ministers in the Coalition and allow them a free vote on abortion legislation.
Kenny's Government has also been hit by the forced resignation of former Senator Joe O'Toole from the water commission. There has also been controversy about the appointment of the Taoiseach's adviser, Andrew McDowell, to a prestige EU post in the Luxembourg-based European Investment Bank.
Mr McDowell's appointment was made through an independent selection process that leaves the Taoiseach in the clear. But in reality the biggest damage was the loss of his most talented adviser - and the raking up again of claims that Mr Kenny was stymied by Independent Minister Shane Ross in his efforts to appoint former Taoiseach John Bruton.
But three of those blows to Enda Kenny left many of his TDs and Senators extremely restive going into the weekly parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday night.
Now let's recall that this meeting happened even before the latest survey results had dropped yesterday morning.
And those results have the potential to put impetus into party colleagues' demands to know more about that mysterious exit plan in the Taoiseach's head.
Nor will his decision to re-appoint Dr James Reilly as party deputy leader help matters either. How can someone who failed to hold his own Dáil seat credibly undertake re-energising a party battered in last February's general election?
Many within Fine Gael fear that Enda Kenny actually likes Government Buildings and when push comes to shove he just won't leave. The very real fear is that the party may not have enough time to even elect a new leader before Fianna Fáil take the ground from under them.
To date, there were two compelling arguments for Kenny remaining as Taoiseach. First, his personal skills to manage a hybrid government.
Second, his long EU experience to manage Ireland's perilous journey through the Brexit process.
But he looked a lot better on both of those a week ago.