Sunday 21 January 2018

Pressure on Kenny grows as FG rues fierce backlash

Jimmy Deenihan lost his seat. Photo: Domnick Walsh
Jimmy Deenihan lost his seat. Photo: Domnick Walsh
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's political career is in serious doubt as some of the party's most senior and high-profile TDs came to terms with the savage backlash delivered by voters in the General Election.

Many Fine Gael members are privately saying Mr Kenny "has to go" after the party lost 20 seats on its last general election result.

However, they are reluctant to speak out against the Taoiseach while votes are still being counted.

The blame game, especially in rural constituencies, has been ramped up as members look for senior party officials to take responsibility for the botched election campaign.

There is widespread anger within the party over Mr Kenny's personal performance during an election which saw him make a series of gaffes.

Even the Taoiseach's loyalist TDs have raised questions over his leadership as discussions are due to begin on forming a new government.

The scale of the party's disastrous election was laid bare by the number of senior casualties around the country over the course of the weekend.

These includes Housing Minister Paudie Coffey, Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan and the party's deputy leader, Children's Minister James Reilly.

Two former ministers, John Perry and Alan Shatter, also lost their seats as the electorate turned on Fine Gael.

Fine Gael's director of elections, Brian Hayes, told the Irish Independent that people shouldn't be "scapegoats" for the bad result.

"I don't think it's a question of anybody in the party taking the fall for it," he said.

"The people who lost out are my colleagues. We went in with 67 seats, if we come back with 55 a lot of people will lose their seats and our thoughts are with them over the next few weeks.

"We need to speak to them and our new parliamentary party and chart out a strategy. But the party is also in government and we have to do that job while a new government is elected by the Dáil.

"People should not be looking for scapegoats. They should not be blaming people within the party. This was always going to be a difficult election. We need to take our time at this."

He said the party ran a united campaign and showed "extraordinary discipline" when it came to vote management strategies in about 20 constituencies.

Speaking following his defeat in Dublin Fingal, Mr Reilly admitted that many of the decisions he was forced to make as Health Minister were "fairly repugnant" as a doctor.

And he warned that another general election may be "inevitable".

Asked about his thoughts on a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition, Mr Reilly said: "There would be those who would be very concerned about that.

"There'd be those who'd be concerned about any other combination."

"But in the interests of the country, people are going to have to roll up their sleeves and come to an arrangement," he added.

"Another election is something that I don't think the people want in the country going forward, and yet it may be inevitable. Who's to say?

"There's a big job to be done by whatever government comes in, a big job to be done by every politician in ensuring we have a government - because if we end up like Spain we're going to find ourselves in a slide back into austerity."

Speaking at the Kerry count yesterday, Mr Deenihan said he believed another election would take place "very soon" but stopped short of ruling himself in or out.

He blamed his defeat on being targeted by people who were not happy with the Government and on a feeling among some that he was 'safe'.

"If I ever hear 'Jimmy is okay' again, I'll lose it," he said.

"We had to make hard decisions and I had to stick by them but we had to do what we had to do."

Irish Independent

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