Friday 26 December 2014

Kenny 'rattled' as his leadership is questioned

Taoiseach on the offensive after Deasy challenges his referendum strategy

John Drennan, Political Editor

Published 13/10/2013 | 05:00

OUTSPOKEN: Fine Gael Waterford TD John Deasy

ENDA Kenny may have been dismissive of the loss of his Seanad referendum in public, but his "hysterical'' response last week to criticism of the campaign by John Deasy reveals he is privately "rattled".

Long-term Fine Gael TDs and senators were left astonished by the "panicky attack" launched by Kenny on his free-thinking deputy Deasy when he questioned his leader's strategy on the Seanad referendum. Sources said that, prior to the meeting, the Government chief whip Paul Kehoe was "very active in ensuring as many of Enda's supporters as possible attended".

One TD told the Sunday Independent: "It was very partisan, all the Dear Leader's men were there, all the lickspittles and acolytes had been gathered in."

Up to Deasy's intervention, the strategy had worked for the room was "like the confessions, full of penitents saying oh my Dear Leader I have sinned through my own fault and I seek forgiveness".

But the mood changed significantly when Deasy told Kenny that it was mostly Fine Gael voters who "flipped" in the run-up to polling day, which led to the tight No vote, and said the Government "took them for granted".

Kenny responded sharply, and while some TDs downplayed the spat with Deasy, others said Kenny then started "ranting".

One source said: "Deasy was measured and thoughtful and Enda was ranting and incoherent." Deasy then rounded on the Taoiseach: "Enda, don't start with me. You're completely out of order. You ran away from this."

One TD said: "The whole meeting was another example of how the new TDs are scared to death of Enda and his mafia, we got our asses handed to us on a referendum, the Taoiseach ran away and nobody said anything."

Things did not improve as Kenny then berated Deasy for failing to attend "any party meetings during the campaign". But one TD quipped: "Sure no one turned up for the meetings, Enda had to cancel a few."

In a further indication of future troubles, the Fine Gael Seanad leader, Maurice Cummins, read a letter from all the senators saying "open wounds" had been left by a campaign where "things were said that shouldn't have been said".

Cummins might have added that "everyone should unite and move on'', but few senators are in so forgiving a mood. And their mood will not have been at all improved by what one TD described as "the failure of Enda to in any way respond to the senators' concerns – he ignored them, it is as though they never existed''.

Deasy and other TDs also questioned Kenny's reliance on advisers, with Dublin North TD Alan Farrell asking Kenny to "look at the advice you're getting".

One TD said: "The advisers had better watch their backs; we texted and advised them in the final week, told them the campaign wasn't working and nothing happened."

Afterwards, some sources described the meeting as "a real turning point in Enda's relationship with his party, they saw the real face".

Those who know Kenny also claim his confidence has been severely dented by the referendum defeat.

One source said: "Enda is very deep, he doesn't take rejection lightly; everyone, the people, senators, are to blame but not Enda."

Though his political position still appears to be impregnable, Kenny might be right to be nervous.

As one source noted: "There are three factions in the party against him now, the senators, the five-a-side club and the old supporters of Richard Bruton, that's 40, nearly half the party.

"It's unlikely to get any better for him either, the longer you are the 'Dear Leader' the less they like you, there are fewer promises that can be made about big jobs. Be sure about it, he's a rattled man now."

Sunday Independent

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