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Thursday 23 February 2017

The show must go on as Kenny takes act to Belfast

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

AFTER all the drama of last week's leadership heave, Fine Gael will be looking to get back down to business this week.

But it won't be altogether easy as some members of the rebel and pro-Kenny camps will have to mix together on official duty.

Today, party leader Enda Kenny will travel with some of the key rebels to Belfast to meet with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson, DUP leader Peter Robinson, Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, as well as other political figures.

Brian Hayes and Fergus O'Dowd, frontbenchers who were strongly in the Bruton camp, will also be part of the Fine Gael delegation.

A Fine Gael spokesman said Mr Kenny did not have any other major engagements for the week, apart from normal Dail business such as leader's questions and questions to Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

The current crop of frontbench spokespeople will also remain in place until a new team is announced by Mr Kenny. They will continue in their duties -- such as questioning ministers in the Dail, releasing statements and press releases -- for perhaps another week or fortnight.

Kieran O'Donnell, promoted to the finance brief after Richard Bruton was sacked, will continue that role for the time being.

However, it is not expected there will be any meetings of the frontbench before the new team is appointed.

Mr Kenny said last week's dramatic meeting was the final one for the current crop of senior spokespeople.

Last Tuesday, the frontbench rebels expected to use the meeting to tell Mr Kenny he was no longer up to the job of leader. But he shut down the meeting and told them that particular frontbench would not meet again.

Public meetings to promote party policy are also expected to take place in the coming weeks, with pro- and anti-Kenny frontbenchers involved.

But health spokesman James Reilly -- who strongly went to bat for Mr Kenny last week -- insists those involved in the heave will be well able to work side by side in future.

Dr Reilly pointed to a public meeting on his 'Fair Care' health plans held with rebel organiser Brian Hayes last Thursday night -- just hours after it had been announced that Mr Kenny had won a vote of confidence at a marathon parliamentary party meeting.

And Mr Kenny himself is due to host some meetings on the party's 'New Era' jobs plan -- devised by rebels Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar -- at the beginning of next month.

Irish Independent

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