TDs want way back into party for rebels
FINE Gael TDs say they would like to see a way back for the party's abortion rebels, but ministers are backing Taoiseach Enda Kenny's hardline stance.
Backbenchers such as Anthony Lawlor and Pat Deering say they would like to see TDs such as Lucinda Creighton return to the fold in time for the next election.
However, Environment Minister Phil Hogan said Mr Kenny had made the position clear – the rebels would not be allowed to stand for Fine Gael.
It comes after the group of rebel TDs called the Reform Alliance held its own think-in ahead of the new Dail term.
At the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in, Mr Kenny himself refused to be drawn on the group, saying: "I'm not interested in superfluous conversations that have nothing to do with the problems that we face every day."
However, even though Mr Kenny ignored the Reform Alliance, he later took a gentle dig at an outspoken group of younger party TDs.
Mr Hogan said Mr Kenny had already made it clear, "there was consequences" for anyone who voted against the abortion legislation. "It's a matter for the Taoiseach and the executive council to decide in due course who is back in the fold or not," he added.
Mr Hogan, seen as the Fine Gael enforcer, said the rebel TDs could support the Government on all other issues.
"Let's see how people perform so, if you think that is going to be the case," the Carlow-Kilkenny TD said when asked if the rebels would be allowed back in if they voted with the Coalition in the Dail.
Rank-and-file TDs such as Mr Lawlor, a TD for Kildare North, and Mr Deering, Mr Hogan's constituency colleague, also say the new group must support the Government.
"It would be difficult for Fine Gael to allow them back in if they constantly voted against (the Government)," Mr Lawlor said, while Mr Deering added: "I personally would like to see that they would have an opportunity of standing at the next general election."
Mr Lawlor and Mr Deering – along with others such as Dublin South-East deputy Eoghan Murphy – are also part of the so-called 'five-a-side' group of younger TDs who have argued against easing off on austerity.
Their statements have attracted the anger of Labour backbenchers, who accused them of being "austerity junkies".
But speaking behind closed doors at the think-in, Mr Kenny took a swipe at the group.
One TD said Mr Kenny told the assembled TDs and senators there had "been talk" of five-a-sides and six-a-sides.
"We don't want fellas playing in the next parish, we all play and stay together and if people have issues, I try to sort them out," Mr Kenny said.