Monday 19 February 2018

Fine Gael warns Kenny not to seek return to power 'at any cost'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with other members of Fine Gael outside Leinster House Photo: Douglas O’Connor
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with other members of Fine Gael outside Leinster House Photo: Douglas O’Connor

John Downing, Philip Ryan, Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been warned that Fine Gael should not seek a return to power "at any cost".

During a marathon meeting of the parliamentary party - which lasted over four hours - several deputies insisted that the party should consider being in opposition, if the demands laid down by Fianna Fáil cannot realistically be met.

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe warned against a scenario whereby ministers did not have proper "authority" to carry out their duties. "An office with authority is something we must now champion," Mr Donohoe is understood to have told the meeting.

His statement is in reference to the prospect of a minority Fine Gael government being formed with the support of Fianna Fáil.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny told colleagues he would now begin methodically discussing coalition options with various parties and groups.

Mr Kenny is due to meet Shane Ross and John Halligan of the Independent Alliance this morning to discuss coalition options.

The meeting in Leinster House will be the first time the Taosieach has reached out to other groups since the General Election last weekend.

Significantly, Finance Minister Michael Noonan says the party needs two years in Government in order to properly sell the message of recovery.

The veteran Limerick city TD said the Dáil numbers meant another election was likely soon, as any coalition would be short lived.

It has been interpreted as a suggestion that an another election will take place in two years' time.

Mr Kenny, whose leadership is under continued pressure, remained at the meeting until it ended after 8pm.

Virtually all members of the parliamentary party spoke for at least five minutes - with the focus on coalition options.

Mr Kenny said senior figures within the party would be appointed to lead the Fine Gael's negotiation team.

He also confirmed a more lengthy meeting would be held to review the party's election performance within a fortnight. Nonetheless, ministerial sources insist Mr Kenny's future as leader remains in doubt, particularly if he secures fewer votes than Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in next week's ballot for Taoiseach.

Speculation remains rife on the prospect of Mr Kenny being succeeded by Health Minister Leo Varadkar or Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The meeting heard serious criticisms of the party's general election campaign with deputies, including Galway West TD Sean Kyne, saying the party's message had been poor and inflexible.

Mr Kyne, who this week refused to express confidence in Mr Kenny, gave an impassioned speech during which he said the party had come under fire from pensioners.

The deputy also said the ­Government had made a mistake in increasing the pension by €3, adding : "It should have been €5 or nothing."

Irish Independent

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