TDs not happy at Taoiseach's latest 'JobBridge' idea - which involves them
Published 17/09/2016 | 02:30
Fine Gael backbenchers have been left incensed after being told by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he will personally arrange a "shadowing programme" involving senior Government ministers.
At the Fine Gael think-in in Kildare - and during further conversations with backbenchers this week - Mr Kenny suggested they spend an arranged period of time with ministers in order to gain experience of what it is like serving in Cabinet.
The proposal has been the subject of ridicule among a group of backbenchers who are now discussing the prospect of tabling a motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny just before the Dáil breaks for Christmas.
In a worrying development for Mr Kenny and his back-room team, ministers, TDs and senators have held further talks about his leadership -both in person and over the phone - since the think-in in Newbridge.
Members of the parliamentary party have labelled the proposal to shadow ministers "JobBridge for backbenchers", referring to the soon-to-be-scrapped work experience scheme, whereby workers get paid €50 on top of their dole.
They have also lashed out at Mr Kenny's claim to the media that he has got his "mojo" back.
Some sources within the party have defended Mr Kenny's offer to shadow a minister, pointing out that he is merely trying to assure TDs who did not secure a ministry that they can still influence Government policy.
But his proposal has been widely condemned as being "patronising".
The view among Government ministers and other senior Fine Gael figures is that Mr Kenny will only step aside in the short term if those outside of the group of so-called "rebels" speak out.
Within the party, those seen as being dissenters include TDs Brendan Griffin (Kerry), John Deasy (Waterford), Jim Daly (Cork South West), Pat Deering (Carlow/Kilkenny), Michael D'Arcy (Wexford) and Fergus O'Dowd (Louth).
But there is now a separate group of TDs who say they may be prepared to join the "rebels" unless Mr Kenny spells out his exit strategy. None of the TDs were willing to speak publicly when asked to do so by the Irish Independent this week.
For the first time since the formation of the new Government, middle-ground ministers - some of whom are seen as close supporters of Mr Kenny - are also expressing disquiet over his leadership.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael figures believe Independent Alliance minister John Halligan will remain in government for the time being at least.
Mr Halligan made a public appearance this week with the Taoiseach and Education Minister Richard Bruton during which he indicated that he has rowed back on his threat to quit over the issue of cardiac services at University Hospital Waterford.
This is despite senior doctors in the south-east categorically rejecting the findings of the clinical review conducted by Dr Niall Herity.
The review recommended against the introduction of a second cath lab. However, it did urge Health Minister Simon Harris to improve resources, facilities, staff and opening hours at the hospital.
Fine Gael figures have rallied behind Mr Harris's refusal to meet Mr Halligan or the doctors over the issue, saying the party won't be held to ransom by a junior minister.