Saturday 3 December 2016

Taoiseach branded a 'control freak' by own Cabinet minister

Anger over Enda Kenny's plans to suppress review of FG election

Published 11/09/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been branded a "control freak" by one of his own Cabinet ministers over his plans to suppress two damning reviews of Fine Gael's disastrous General Election campaign.

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Mr Kenny has been sitting on at least one of the reports - highlighting failings that resulted in Fine Gael losing 26 seats - for two months.

Fine Gael backbenchers expected to see both reports ahead of the party's annual two-day 'think-in', which takes place in Kildare tomorrow.

However, it has emerged that party members will not be given copies of either report, but instead will receive 10-minute presentations and one-page summaries.

The move by the Taoiseach and his officials, who are severely criticised for their communication skills in one of the reports, is sure to anger Fine Gael TDs as they gather for their first think-in since the election.

A Fine Gael minister said Mr Kenny's management of the reports showed "lessons had not been learned" and described the Taoiseach and his officials as "control freaks".

Other members questioned why the Taoiseach was insisting on maintaining divisions between his officials and the parliamentary party.

Two separate reports were commissioned by Fine Gael in the wake of the election.

Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell will present the findings of one of the reports Photo: Tom Burke
Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell will present the findings of one of the reports Photo: Tom Burke

Dr Marion Coy, chair of the Michael Collins Institute, conducted one, while a team of Fine Gael TDs carried out a separate survey of party members' views.

Tomorrow afternoon, Fine Gael Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell is due to present the findings of the report she and her colleagues conducted. However, she has been allocated just 10 minutes to detail the findings of interviews with candidates and staff from every constituency in the country. A question-and-answer session will follow.

A senior Fine Gael figure questioned how Ms O'Connell will be able to present a detailed report in such a short time period.  

Read more: Fine Gael's pork-barrel deal with the Independents should be published

"The Taoiseach's people have said the reports will not be handed out to parliamentary party members in hard copy until it is also presented to Fine Gael headquarters," the source said.

"It seems a bit daft because it will be up there on a screen and people can just take notes, but that's what the powers-that-be decided," the source added.

The report is critical of internal communications within the party, especially between the Taoiseach's staff and the parliamentary party.

Fine Gael members interviewed for the survey also complained that they were not informed about directives from headquarters prior to General Election selection conventions, which led to tensions in a number of constituencies. There are also criticisms of the Taoiseach's staff's dealings with the media before and during the election.

Ms O'Connell, along with Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke, Dublin Fingal's Alan Farrell, and Maria Bailey from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown were responsible for compiling the survey.

Fine Gael's think-in at the Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, is being organised by parliamentary party chairman and local TD Martin Heydon.

The main focus of the conference is passing a Budget "to improve people's lives".

Carlow-Kilkenny TD and Oireachtas Budgetary Committee chair John Paul Phelan will chair a panel discussion with Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe. There will also be sessions on housing, mental health and building for the future of the party.

It is likely Mr Kenny's leadership will be discussed at the conference, but it remains unclear if he will outline a timeline for when he plans to step down. There was pressure on the Fine Gael leader from his TDs to set a date for his departure before the Dail broke for the summer recess.

However, Mr Kenny ignored the demands of his parliamentary party and only said he will not lead the party into the next general election.

There have been calls for him to step down after the Budget to allow his successor develop a vision for the party before the next election is called.

Sunday Independent

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