Thursday 8 December 2016

Party leaves battered Kenny in no doubt that his authority is vanishing - and fast

Published 07/07/2016 | 02:30

'Mr Kenny needs to realise that the 'Brexit' result requires an extraordinary and unprecedented effort from the Government of the day' Photo: Tom Burke
'Mr Kenny needs to realise that the 'Brexit' result requires an extraordinary and unprecedented effort from the Government of the day' Photo: Tom Burke

On Monday, he was slapped down by the North's First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster.

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On Tuesday, he capitulated to Shane Ross on the issue of abortion before being questioned and mocked by Opposition leaders in the Dáil. But yesterday Enda Kenny realised first-hand that his authority as leader of the Government, as well as his own party, is fast becoming eroded.

The scene was set during 'Leaders' Questions' when Meath West deputy Peadar Tóibin labelled the Taoiseach "Calamity Kenny".

Mr Tóibín was probably quoting Fine Gael backbenchers who have begun using that particular term to describe their leader in conversations with this newspaper.

It really is a sorry state of affairs when Sinn Féin backbenchers feel they are now in a position to, on a daily basis, mock every pronouncement of political leaders willing to step up to the plate.

Mr Tóibín is of course a member of the party that yesterday decided to "reprimand" two of his colleagues for failing to toe the Sinn Féin line on none other than hare coursing.

Nonetheless, Mr Tóibín's sneeriness was to be replicated as the day progressed.

His party leader Gerry Adams joined in, describing Mr Kenny's attempt to establish a cross-island 'Brexit' forum as "clumsy and incompetent". So after being dubbed clumsy, incompetent and a calamity by the Sinn Féin party, the Taoiseach entered the comforts of the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.

This was a meeting of some of his greatest supporters, his own ministers and TDs.

His own people.

And yet, the criticism, hostility and frustration was levelled at the Taoiseach from all fronts.

In fact, it seems like the only person in the room less popular than Mr Kenny was Shane Ross, or 'Lord Ross', as he is now often described.

Why, TDs asked, did Mr Kenny fail to pluck up the courage to face down his Transport Minister, particularly on an issue that the Government's chief legal adviser, Attorney General Máire Whelan, has deemed to be unconstitutional?

He failed to provide a proper answer in a short response that had little substance.

Jim Daly and Pat Deering, two backbench TDs who probably are not best pleased at being overlooked for a junior ministry, led the chorus of condemnation.

And wait! Did a parliamentary party member call for Mr Kenny's head?

After Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd chose, in almost Judas-like style, to mention the term 'leadership' on three occasions, word trickled out that a revolt was in the offing.

Mr O'Dowd was in fact referring to the change of leadership ahead of the next election that has been promised by the incumbent.

"However, there is no doubt a shot had been fired," noted one minister present.

Wexford TD Michael D'Arcy was next up. The newly elected deputy told Mr Kenny backbenchers are furious that members of the "lunatic left" seem to be given more speaking time than Fine Gael members.

"It's like the parliament of Albania," Mr D'Arcy said.

After what has been a torrid week, the Taoiseach is surely wondering whether the departure date that only he knows should now be brought forward.

If Mr Kenny does decide to plough on - as many of his colleagues are urging him to do - he needs to change tack.

He needs to re-assert his authority over a Government that seems to stumbling along at a time when leadership is required more than ever.

Mr Kenny needs to realise that the 'Brexit' result requires an extraordinary and unprecedented effort from the Government of the day.

If he doesn't have the energy, or ability, to lead that effort, there are plenty of people in the party who do.

Irish Independent

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