Saturday 7 December 2019

Burton and Kenny being blamed for poll disaster

Strategists also under fire as the election recriminations begin

SURVIVOR: Joan Burton. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
SURVIVOR: Joan Burton. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

THE leaders of the two Coalition parties are set to come under intense pressure after a disastrous General Election for both Fine Gael and Labour.

Early tallies of votes from around the country showed that the current Government was set to lose a significant number of seats and would not return to power.

As the votes came in, focus shifted to the leaders of both parties - Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Joan Burton.

Senior Fine Gael members were incensed last night over the party's performance and were calling for the Taoiseach to account for the huge loss of seats.

Anger was also focused on Fine Gael's election strategy team - ministers Frances Fitzgerald, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.

Across the party, members also laid blame on the strategist who developed Fine Gael's 'Keep the recovery going' slogan, which is now widely accepted as being the wrong message for the campaign.

Several prominent Fine Gael candidates, some seen as extremely loyal to the Taoiseach, admitted that Mr Kenny's days as leader of Fine Gael could be numbered after a devastating election.

Senior outgoing Fine Gael TDs are incensed by what one described as an "utterly f**ked up" campaign and are now looking to Mr Kenny for answers. The party looks set to lose close to 20 seats.

"I can't see him staying, no matter how many seats we get at this stage," a senior Fine Gael TD told the Sunday Independent.

Another Kenny loyalist said it was likely that the Taoiseach will step aside and be replaced by Ms Fitzgerald, who will then handle coalition negotiations with Fianna Fail.

However, other Fine Gael figures have suggested that Ms Fitzgerald also has questions to answer over her role as chair of the party's election strategy committee.

"Every one of them should face the firing squad over the election strategy," a senior source said.

Mr Kenny, who topped the poll in his own Mayo constituency, is unlikely to face a heave but several party members said they believed that he would choose to step aside.

Questions were also hanging over the Tanaiste Joan Burton's leadership last night, even after she managed to retain her own seat in Dublin West.

Ms Burton took over as Labour leader after Eamon Gilmore stepped down following the party's disastrous local election result in 2014. She is now faced with returning to the Dail with as few as five other party members.

Labour's deputy leader Alan Kelly, who is seen as Ms Bruton's main rival for the leadership, was also fighting for his political survival in Tipperary last night.

Mr Kelly has made no secret of his ambition to lead the party and sources say he is likely to launch a leadership challenge should he return to Leinster House.

However, Brendan Howlin - one of the few Labour TDs who retained his seat - is seen as the favourite to take over from Ms Burton.

A senior Labour source described a leadership heave against Ms Burton as "inevitable", given the huge amount of seats the party lost.

Sources said the Tanaiste may save her leadership if she returns with 20 TDs.

However, this was looking extremely unlikely as votes were counted around the country.

"It will be a reduced parliamentary party, no matter what happens, and if Labour comes back with seven to 10 seats, there will be bigger problems than the party leader," a party source said.

Sunday Independent

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