The 'Green Isle Gang' make a swift getaway
THE screeching of tyres and the pungent smell of burning rubber symbolised the hasty getaway made yesterday morning by the 'Green Isle Gang'.
They had begun their secret meeting to force Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny out of office at 7.30am.
They had chosen the Green Isle Hotel in Dublin due to its convenient location off the M50 on the N7 which made it easy to reach for Dublin-based and rural TDs.
The executive meeting room in the hotel had only been booked the night before (at a cost of €75). The aim was to discuss a way of getting Mr Kenny to resign from office at the party's frontbench meeting later that morning.
The key figure in the 'gang' was sacked Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton, who told those attending of what had happened between him and Mr Kenny. Seven of the party's 18 frontbenchers -- Leo Varadkar, Michael Creed, Olivia Mitchell, Denis Naughton, Billy Timmins, Fergus O'Dowd and Brian Hayes -- were there. Fine Gael's social protection spokeswoman Olwyn Enright couldn't make it in person -- so she took part in the meeting via speakerphone.
The party's communications spokesman Simon Coveney also wasn't there -- but the 'gang' was satisfied he was "onside". By the end of the meeting, they all had resolved to confront Mr Kenny head on at the frontbench meeting and demand his resignation.
But then word filtered through to the group that they had been spotted. Someone had recognised RTE 'Today with Pat Kenny' reporter Valerie Cox lurking around the hotel and panic ensued. The 'gang' tried to escape unnoticed by taking the hotel lift to the underground car park around 9.30am -- but found that Ms Cox and a photographer were waiting there for them. The 'gang' came down in ones and twos and then "made a run for it".
Fine Gael's Olivia Mitchell was driven out by Mr Bruton in his car, while Mr Hayes took off in his car "like something out of Monte Carlo".
Fine Gael foreign affairs spokesman Billy Timmins was also spotted leaving the hotel -- which undermined his attempt to deny his presence afterwards. He later admitted that his car might have been in the underground car park, telling the relentless Ms Cox: "If you've a nice car, you should flaunt it."
The 'gang' are understood to be blaming the media tip-off on persons unknown who recognised them at the hotel, rather than a Kenny ally.
That set the stage for the pro- and anti-Kenny factions on the Fine Gael frontbench to meet together in the party's room on the fourth floor in the Leinster House 2000 building at 11am.
When Mr Kenny arrived at 11.08am, he sat down at the slightly curved table, which takes up about 80pc of the cramped meeting room.
One TD present joked that it was even more cramped when you considered the size of the egos present.
Mr Kenny then launched into a monologue (a Shakespearian monologue, said one disgruntled frontbencher) about what had happened between himself and Mr Bruton.
His mood was described as forceful but he did not shout or display obvious anger. He was listened to in respectful silence, because the rebels have made clear that they do not possess any personal animosity towards Mr Kenny.
He told the rebels on his frontbench that his door was always open to them if anybody wanted to talk.
That was the carrot and then came the stick -- he would be announcing a new frontbench next week.
Then Mr Kenny announced that he wanted to bring the debate to the parliamentary party and that he was drawing the meeting to a close -- the Green Isle Gang's plan for a quick internal coup was dashed.
Some of the frontbench rebels, such as agriculture spokesman Michael Creed, tried to talk but Mr Kenny was having none of it.
He exited the stage. Some of his key supporters got up and left with him, while other pro- and anti-Kenny TDs trickled out afterwards.