Sunday 21 January 2018

'Hypocrisy' to accept Kenny olive branch, insist rebels

Aine Kerr Political Correspondent

ENDA Kenny's olive branch to his rebellious frontbench TDs was rejected by a series of key players last night.

Mr Kenny had reached out to the 10 frontbenchers backing Richard Bruton, and signalled he may be prepared to reinstate them.

But leadership challenger and former finance spokesman Mr Bruton claimed it would be the "height of hypocrisy" for him to return to the frontbench under Mr Kenny.

And this was strongly echoed by other senior Fine Gael TDs Leo Varadkar, Brian Hayes and Olivia Mitchell.

Mr Bruton said: "I, unfortunately, no longer have confidence that Enda Kenny can provide the leadership that this country needs.

"It would be hypocritical of me to work in a shadow cabinet when I don't have confidence in the leader. That would be the height of hypocrisy."

Enterprise spokesman Mr Varadkar also said it would be "very hypocritical" to take a frontbench position, while education spokesman Brian Hayes said acceptance would be "totally hypocritical", having expressed confidence in an alternative leader.

A close ally of Mr Bruton, tourism spokeswoman Ms Mitchell, said it would not be fair of her to accept a position having publicly claimed she had lost confidence in Mr Kenny.

Other members of the so-called 'gang of 10' were less clear about what they would do should Mr Kenny win today.

Credibility

Cork South-Central's Simon Coveney said he wouldn't have any credibility on the frontbench having openly supported Mr Bruton.

But he left the door half-open to any future offer from Mr Kenny if he wins.

"I think it would be very difficult for me to take a position on the frontbench, but I'll have to wait and see what happens, but that's my gut feeling."

Spokesman for the breakaway group, Denis Naughten, said that if Mr Kenny were to ring him, he would answer his call.

"I'm not going to make any further comment than that," the Roscommon-South Leitrim TD said.

Louth's Fergus O'Dowd, who was the first to break cover on Monday and support Mr Burton, said he could not rule out accepting a frontbench offer from Mr Kenny if it arose.

"I'm not expecting any great offers," the transport spokesman said.

Equally, Laois-Offaly TD Olwyn Enright said returning to the frontbench was not something she would rule out in the interests of party unity.

Agriculture spokesman Michael Creed insisted such an offer would not arise.

With intense lobbying still under way, the rebels refused to be drawn on what they perceived as Mr Kenny's major weaknesses and inadequacies.

But Mr Varadkar said media performances and lack of attention to some policy detail had been noted.

Ms Mitchell said the vote was a question between "sense and sentiment". Mr Kenny had done a "good job" rebuilding the party and would have made a "very good" Taoiseach at another time.

Irish Independent

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