Series of critical meetings ahead as party decides its fate
What will happen at the Fine Gael frontbench meeting at 11am today?
Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton was expected to begin his leadership challenge against party leader Enda Kenny. However, now he won't be able to attend as Mr Kenny has sacked him from the front bench. Nevertheless, the issue of Mr Kenny's leadership is expected to be the main topic of the meeting.
What happens after the meeting?
Mr Kenny will be hoping to get the unanimous support of his frontbench. But, Mr Bruton says he believes a majority will back him instead -- and it is possible that some may resign in solidarity with Mr Bruton. If Mr Kenny cannot get a unanimous vote of confidence from his frontbench, it will be a further blow to his leadership.
What will happen to the Fine Gael frontbench members who don't back Mr Kenny?
Mr Kenny has said that he will make a decision on the make-up of his frontbench next week. That puts pressure on those who haven't come out in support of him to do so now -- or face the sack. Fine Gael's transport spokesman, Fergus O'Dowd, is particularly vulnerable, having already declared his support for Mr Bruton.
What about Mr Kenny's motion of confidence in himself?
Mr Kenny will bring this motion to the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Thursday. He says that he has the support of a majority of party TDs and senators to fend off Mr Bruton's leadership challenge.
What if Enda wins the vote?
He will survive as leader of Fine Gael. However, he will run the risk of further leadership 'heaves' from a disgruntled Mr Bruton and other members of the party if there are poor results for Fine Gael in future opinion polls.
What if Enda loses the vote?
He will then have to resign his position as party leader, just like former Fine Gael leader John Bruton resigned when he lost a vote of confidence in 2001.
If Mr Bruton is the sole candidate to replace him, he can be elected as leader at a meeting of the parliamentary party.
What if other Fine Gael leadership candidates emerge?
In the unlikely event of this happening, Fine Gael's new electoral college system would come into play. This would involve councillors, TDs, senators and card-carrying members of the Fine Gael party all taking part in the vote to elect a new leader.
Who will be looking on with interest as all this takes place?
Taoiseach Brian Cowen -- and former Fine Gael TD George Lee.