Thursday 29 September 2016

Kenny intends to serve for 'two more years', FG ministers told

Niall O'Connor and John Downing

Published 13/09/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny pictured alongside party colleagues at the Fine Gael think in at the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Taoiseach Enda Kenny pictured alongside party colleagues at the Fine Gael think in at the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Enda Kenny now intends to continue as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael "for at least another two years", Fine Gael ministers have been told.

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Senior party sources last night confirmed that Mr Kenny has now signalled a 2018 departure - in a move that will cause alarm among backbenchers who want him replaced by the spring at the latest.

FG TDs Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Neil Richmond and Maria Bailey go for a walk before
the Fine Gael think-in at the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge. Photo: Damien Eagers
FG TDs Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Neil Richmond and Maria Bailey go for a walk before the Fine Gael think-in at the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge. Photo: Damien Eagers

It is the first time details of an exit strategy have been revealed since Mr Kenny announced that this will be his final term as Taoiseach.

During a private session at the Fine Gael think-in in Newbridge, Co Kildare, Mr Kenny said he is "just months in" as a second-term Taoiseach.

"And I have no intention of going anywhere," sources say he told the meeting.

One minister last night said it was made "clear" by Mr Kenny's inner circle that he intends to resist any attempt to oust him.

Kate O’Connell arrives for the think-in in Kildare. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kate O’Connell arrives for the think-in in Kildare. Photo: Damien Eagers

"The Taoiseach is now making it clear that he wants to do another two years. We are quite surprised," the minister told the Irish Independent.

In a clear bid to reassert his authority over the party, Mr Kenny yesterday signalled plans for a reshuffle next year.

And during a series of radio interview, he told Pat Kenny on Newstalk that he has his "mojo back" following the election.

"I'm not interested in history personally at all insofar as myself is concerned. I didn't enjoy the election. I had a reflection on this over the summer. As I say, I've got my mojo back," Mr Kenny said.

"I have a mandate and I'm not going to walk away from that mandate," he added.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the think-in, Mr Kenny tried to clarify the 'mojo' remark.

"It's my zeal for life in politics. It's the recovery of meeting the challenge in politics in very difficult situations."

On the issue of the leadership, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar joked that he potentially "feeds" talk of Mr Kenny's leadership.

"It's up to the Taoiseach to make his own decisions on that and I think he is entitled to have the time and space to make his own decision," Mr Varadkar said.

"I have been complaining recently about people writing about me and leadership and I probably feed that by answering too many questions on it so I'll leave it at that," he added.

The remarks came as a new opinion poll show Mr Varadkar is the preferred choice among the public to succeed Mr Kenny as Fine Gael leader.

The 'Claire Byrne Live'/ Amarách Research put Mr Varadkar on 37pc, followed by Housing Minister Simon Coveney (21pc) and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald (8pc).

Read more: How Fine Gael rebels want Enda 'gone by Christmas' - but he has other ideas

Read more: Kenny hints at plans to reshuffle government ministers next year

Meanwhile, the think-in itself was dominated by talk about the Budget and the prospect of Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan quitting the Government.

During a private session, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he is confident that the Budget - which will be split 2:1 in favour of spending - will be passed next month.

He also told TDs and senators that he believes Fianna Fáil is equally as keen to ensure the Budget passes.

Earlier, Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell and Dr Marion Coy gave separate presentations on the party's election performance.

TDs noted a significant difference in the way the reports were written.

There had been tensions between Dr Coy and a group of TDs over which report should take precedence. Mr Kenny said both will now be published.

Irish Independent

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