Friday 15 December 2017

Dissenters face sack as leader sounds warning

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

ENDA Kenny issued a thinly veiled warning to dissenters as he pledged to undertake "personnel changes" within the party next week.

Senior TDs who vote against the embattled Fine Gael leader will face the sack under a reshuffle of his frontbench.

He has already decided to sack leadership rival Richard Bruton as deputy leader and party finance spokesman.

And now transport spokesman and Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd could find himself in the firing line after publicly backing Mr Bruton.

Mr Kenny criticised "unnamed people" within the party who he said had undermined it.

"Over the weekend, some unnamed people have done huge damage to Fine Gael through their anonymous comments to the media which has resulted in an opinion poll dominating the news agenda at a time when all our energies should be focused on getting this Government out of office," he said.

"Among the many huge challenges I faced when I was elected leader of Fine Gael was to heal the deep wounds left from previous internal conflict and leadership challenges.

"I have worked patiently and sensitively to bind the party into a cohesive and united team and I am very disappointed that a small number of colleagues are determined to bring Fine Gael back to those bad old days."

As the fallout from last week's opinion poll gathered pace, Mr Bruton and Mr Kenny held talks over the weekend and again yesterday.

Mr Kenny tried to persuade Mr Bruton to desist from a leadership bid. The Fine Gael leader, who saw his popularity ratings drop by 7pc to 24pc, insisted he had never considered resigning during those talks.

The decision of Mr Bruton to mount a leadership challenge was "very regrettable and very disappointing". But he said their "long friendship" of 25 years would continue.

"I want an end to this bickering. I want an end to this situation where there is lack of clarity from some people about where the Fine Gael party is headed," he said.


Mr Kenny refused to be drawn on the discussions with Mr Bruton or whether he had offered him any kind of a deal if he backed off from a leadership challenge.

After Thursday's leadership vote, which Mr Kenny predicted he would win, the process of "rebuilding the party again" will begin.

The Fine Gael leader said he had managed to keep people "reasonably happy" since he became leader and had re-energised a demoralised party.

But when the Dublin North Central TD announced to him that he would table a motion of no confidence, Mr Kenny said he was left in an "impossible position".

He could not, he said, pursue a motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Brian Cowen today without the support of his own deputy party leader.

And he further conceded the timing of that motion was not ideal.

Irish Independent

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