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Sunday 18 March 2018

Enda Kenny must 'rebuild his credibility' following confusion over the General Election - senior Fine Gael figures

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's credibility has been severely damaged following his handling of the timing of the General Election, senior Fine Gael figures believe.

Mr Kenny's surprise decision to shut the door on a November poll has been the subject of severe criticism within the party for a second consecutive day.

The Fine Gael leader is now expected to be challenged over the issue at his parliamentary party meeting tomorrow.

For the first time in several months, supporters of Mr Kenny have conceded that his standing in the party has been seriously undermined following his handling of the election date.

One minister last night said he believed the issue will be used against Mr Kenny if Fine Gael suffers a poor election.

"And I think you can safely say Kenny's leadership will then come into focus once the election is over," the minister told the Irish Independent.

Party sources are split over the reasons behind Mr Kenny's decision to kill off all speculation of a November poll during his interview with Áine Lawlor on RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics'.

During the interview, the Fine Gael leader said it is his "intention" to hold the election in the Spring of 2016 and that he sees "no reason" to change his mind in the coming weeks.

Pressed on the prospect of a November election, Mr Kenny insisted: "I see no reason to change my mind."

Some TDs, including members of Mr Kenny's own Cabinet, had been briefed on Saturday that he intended to leave open the option of calling a snap election after the Budget.

These sources say they believed Mr Kenny had intended to gauge the public's perception of the €1.5bn package before consulting Tánaiste Joan Burton about a polling date.

"There was no doubt in our minds what Enda was going to do on Sunday - then he did the opposite," said a Cabinet source.

Others, however, are adamant that the reaction from the Labour Party to the prospect of a snap election prompted Mr Kenny's climbdown.

The level of anger within the junior Coalition partner reached fever pitch last week - prompting one deputy to threaten to withdraw his support for the FG/Labour Coalition after the election.

Kerry TD Arthur Spring said he would advise members in his constituency not to vote for another FG/Labour Coalition if an early poll was called.

He said by calling a November election, Mr Kenny would have breached the "trust" between the two parties.

The Tánaiste was also known to be annoyed at Mr Kenny's continued refusal to rule out a winter poll.

Comments by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan in Brussels, during which he told party strategists to be prepared for a snap election, also annoyed Labour figures. Fine Gael figures now believe Mr Kenny must rebuild his credibility.

Irish Independent

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