Monday 22 January 2018

Beneath the niceties, this affair is turning very nasty

Fiach Kelly

YOU may have heard that the Fine Gael leadership crisis has been all very amicable. Both camps are still very friendly, thank you very much, insist those involved in the heave.

They'd have you believe it's just like a posh dinner party disagreement over who should have the last slice of tarte au citron. Would you like a kick up the bum to go with the knife in your back, Enda?

Oh, Richard, thank you very much. My dear brute, with those stinging insults you are really spoiling me.

Don't be fooled so easily. They aren't playing nice, apart from a few.

"I'll tell you what it's about with them," said one Kenny supporter. "It's not about Fine Gael and it's not about Enda Kenny. It's about their own personal advancement. They're all in it for themselves.


"And they're going on as if we'll all be happy when this is over. It won't, we won't forget this. Enda is popular across the party and they have shown some arrogance to believe that they can oust him by themselves."

Kenny supporters vowed that, if he is beaten, they will run a stalking horse candidate to stop Richard Bruton getting a clear run at the leadership. So much for the party uniting after this morning's parliamentary party meeting, where Kenny's leadership will be put to a vote.

"There will be no coronation," said one Kenny loyalist. "But I think we've got the numbers anyway."

That is very much in dispute. One leading rebel laughed aloud when Phil Hogan, Kenny's right-hand man, told RTE News he was certain they had the numbers to win the confidence vote today.

By last night, both sides were claiming they had the upper hand.

After running rings around his opponents for two days, Enda had to stand back and take a few hits yesterday. The defection of Kieran O'Donnell, who was appointed by Kenny to the frontbench on Monday after Richard Bruton was sacked, was the first blow of the afternoon, although Mr O'Donnell seemed to be slightly mixed up as to who exactly he was supporting.

"I would like to see Enda Kenny leading us into the next election," he said. Fair play to you Kieran. Why all the fuss so? Then came frontbencher Charlie Flanagan, the party's justice spokesman, who supported Kenny at the weekend but had now abandoned him.

The mood throughout the day tilted towards Bruton, with TDs Pat Breen, Joe McHugh and Michael D'Arcy all going public with their support for the challenger.

Bruton emerged after five o'clock with a handful or his supporters and urged the party leader to stand down.

Rumours flew that Mr Kenny was to resign and TDs and senators were badgered about who they were backing. Senator Nicky McFadden answered that question by blowing kisses to people outside Leinster House.

And it got dirtier. Dublin South-East TD Lucinda Creighton -- a Bruton supporter who claimed she was offered a job by the Kenny camp in exchange for her vote -- was branded a liar by Mr Hogan, who came out to the plinth after Bruton had left, with around 20 Kenny supporters in tow.

He said he had "no doubt" Kenny would win and said his side wanted a decisive victory.

There were more pleas for the senior defectors to make themselves available to serve in a Kenny frontbench again. But the majority of the rebels say that will not happen, although others were not so sure.


But there is a certain tragedy to it all, with Kenny's camp saying their man is taking being pushed out the door very personally altogether.

"He's given this party eight years and built it up from its knees," said one. "He's put a young family second and is very hurt by all of this."

But this is politics. It is not nice, and Taoiseach Brian Cowen couldn't resist throwing the boot into Kenny yesterday during a dreadfully dull leaders' questions.

After playing a tactical blinder against his internal opponents over the last few days, Kenny resorted to what got him into trouble in the first place -- an insipid and uninspired Dail showing.

"At least I am sure we can keep things civil inside the House," said Mr Cowen.

That has not been the case so far in the heave, and it may not be the case during what is expected to be a long and heated Fine Gael meeting today, when Kenny's fate will be decided by a secret ballot.

Irish Independent

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