'Secret ballot' to unseat Kenny - FG TDs
Fine Gael rebels are seeking support for a secret ballot at the final parliamentary party meeting before Christmas in a bid to oust Enda Kenny as leader, the Irish Independent has learned.
A number of TDs held discussions over the phone at the weekend as they prepare to heighten the level of discord within the party over Mr Kenny.
The move comes as Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar warned yesterday of any "further displays of disunity".
Mr Varadkar, seen as one of Mr Kenny's most likely successors, said the Taoiseach cannot be distracted by internal party matters.
Despite the warning, a consensus is growing around the prospect of tabling a confidence motion in Mr Kenny at a parliamentary party meeting in late December, according to a number of sources involved in tentative discussions.
The timing of the motion would ensure next month's Budget is passed through the Oireachtas, the sources say.
The TDs insist that the ballot must be held in secret and believe notice of the motion will be given in early December.
While there is an acceptance that Mr Kenny would defeat a no-confidence motion, the view among some so-called rebels is that the Mayo politician will be left fatally damaged and be forced to consider stepping aside during the Christmas recess.
However, there is also a realisation that more TDs will need to be on board if the motion is to have a significant impact.
One deputy involved in the discussions described the proposal as "high-risk", but said it is "imperative" that a motion is tabled before the end of the year.
A second TD said he believes Mr Kenny will win a motion, but added that the mere tabling of one will prove extremely damaging.
"He won't be able to say he didn't see this coming. We've made it perfectly clear we aren't happy," said the rural backbencher.
As revealed by the Irish Independent on Saturday, there is significant anger within the party over Mr Kenny's offer for backbenchers to "shadow" ministers in order to gain experience.
At the Fine Gael think-in in Kildare, he suggested TDs spend an arranged period of time with ministers.
One backbencher likened the offer to JobBridge, while another said he told the Taoiseach he will not be engaging in such an exercise.
The growing disquiet emerged as Mr Varadkar fired his warning shot.
"Obviously, I want to be part of Fine Gael's future, but in the meantime I think it's really important that we support Enda Kenny as Taoiseach," he told RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics'.
"He has to concentrate on government. He has to concentrate on his job as Taoiseach and he can't be distracted by internal party matters. Secondly, there shouldn't be any further public displays of disunity.
"Nobody wants to support a party that is more interested in talking about its own issues than the hopes and fears and problems that people face."
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said she is "amused" by media reports that suggest senior party figures in Belfast "dread" the prospect of her becoming leader.
"We are a single party. We know each other. We have all worked together for a very long period of time. We are not adversaries," she said.
"We are not opponents. We are all on the same page . We are committed to the same politics."
The Dublin Central TD said there is an acceptance within the party that "nobody goes on forever", referring to Gerry Adams' announcement that he has a plan to step down.
"When the time is right the change in leadership will be made," Ms McDonald said.