Anyone planning a heave had better do their homework first
Published 03/03/2016 | 02:30
If it's a heave they are planning, those Fine Gael TDs and senators had better do their homework well.
It's not just that the Taoiseach roundly defeated their last attempt in June 2010, and turned it to his advantage, going on to head the Government eight months later.
Neither is it just that he spent the years 1991-1994 and 1997-2001 fending off incipient and full-blown heaves against his then-party leader John Bruton. Nor is it that his wife, Fionnuala, as Fianna Fáil party press officer from 1981 until 1990, had a ringside seat at many of the failed heaves against her own boss, Charlie Haughey, and watched him boxing off the ropes.
It is the combination of all these things, and the reality that Enda Kenny has spent over 40 years at Leinster House and seen many's a would-be putsch. In fact, since he can never remember a time before his own father, Henry Kenny, was not a TD, you can take it that he was inadvertently schooled in political intrigue from boyhood.
At all events, for now there is no question of any move against him, though resentment runs deep among a badly disappointed parliamentary party who feel let down by a lumbering, lacklustre campaign. One Fine Gael minister is right to insist that a move against him is "unthinkable" as long as he is trying to form a government of some kind.
If he fails in that task, it could well be open season and he could have a difficult personal decision to make.
But already, given the impossible Dáil arithmetic, there is at best ambivalence in the Fine Gael ranks about just how hard the party should go in pursuing a minority administration. Many of the party's TDs and senators feel the others, notably Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, are setting them up for a short-lived shaky coalition, which can only end in collapse, and the huge danger of being discredited in the process.
In other words there is a clear fear that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are already eyeing the next move on the chessboard which, sooner rather than later, may be a General Election.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney's blunder on RTÉ about water charges has caused a big difficulty for the caretaker government. But it also takes the pressure off Enda Kenny.
A putative dauphin, Mr Coveney does not look so clever now, and it all comes on top of a poor General Election in his Cork bailiwick. Indeed, the other two would-be Kenny successors, Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald, did not have distinguished campaigns.
Party stalwarts would have been entitled to look towards them to drive the scaling of the campaign, as privately promised by some strategists, in the final week. In fact the final week went by without a repeat of Fianna Fáil's 2007 experience, when Bertie Ahern's lieutenants successfully pulled out the stops.
The mood within Fine Gael will become clearer today when the TDs and senators - including some starstruck newcomers - gather at Leinster House.