Thursday 23 February 2017

Rebels pledge loyalty to Kenny until election

Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

FINE Gael rebels last night vowed there would be no more heaves against leader Enda Kenny before the next General Election.

The 11 frontbench TDs who broke ranks and opposed Mr Kenny's leadership accepted they may now be destined for a life on the backbenches until the General Election and beyond.

But rebels such as Brian Hayes insisted Mr Kenny now had their full support and there was "no way" the issue of the leadership would be reopened before the election. Leadership contender Richard Bruton refused to say if he would serve under Mr Kenny again, despite ruling it out all week and claiming it would be the "height of hypocrisy" to return to the frontbench.

But he too was definitive in ruling out any further heaves and vowed to help rebuild unity in the party.

"There will be no more heaves. The parliamentary party has made its decision. We're a very democratic party. We had a very good debate and there will be issues that will come up out of the debate that will strengthen the party," Mr Bruton said.

"We are a family. Sometimes, issues arise in a family and they have been resolved in a very adult way and I think there was no rancour in the meeting. I think it was very satisfactory and I respect the result."

Forcing a motion of confidence was the right thing to do because people had been talking about Mr Kenny's leadership, Mr Bruton said.

"This was an issue that had to be resolved for the party. I think Enda Kenny has demonstrated his resilience and I think the decision has been made. Clearly that decision has to be respected," he said.

However, he refused to say whether he would return to the frontbenches if Mr Kenny extended an olive branch.

Brian Hayes, one of his strongest supporters, said there was a "great chance and new opportunity" for Mr Kenny given the mandate he received from TDs, senators and MEPs.

"Clearly, he will be the leader of the party into the next General Election," Mr Hayes said.

On the question of any future heaves or opposition to the Fine Gael leader, he said: "There's no way. The party can't reopen this issue of the leadership. It is totally impossible."

The former education spokesman claimed it was "highly unlikely" the leader would reappoint him next week.

Denis Naughten, who led the 10 rebels on to the plinth on Tuesday, said he would abide by the spirit and implementation of yesterday's vote over the next two years into the next General Election.

The Roscommon-South Leitrim TD said he had accepted he may now be left on the backbenches.

Implications

But he added some of the younger members of the frontbench may not have "thought through the full implications" of opposing the leader who appointed them.

Another Bruton supporter, Fergus O'Dowd, said Mr Kenny had been the "clear winner" and insisted the party would move forward as one camp and not two or three camps.

He vowed to serve Mr Kenny under "any capacity" and did not rule out a return to the frontbenches. The Fine Gael leader came through this week's vote with "flying colours" and showed "true and absolute leadership qualities", the Louth TD added.

Cork South Central's Simon Coveney, who last week called for unity before declaring for Mr Bruton, last night vowed to work "harder than ever".

"There's a particular responsibility on people like me. . . to work harder than ever now to ensure that we heal any wounds that have been opened this week," he said.

But he refused to be drawn on a return to the frontbenches, claiming it was a decision for Mr Kenny.

Irish Independent

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