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Sunday 21 January 2018

Kenny is accused of 'threats' to Creighton

FG members 'horrified' at TD's treatment after donations speech


Fine Gael TD John Deasy has accused leader Enda Kenny of being behind "threats" to colleague Lucinda Creighton in a dramatic intervention which will widen the already gaping divide in Fine Gael.

Mr Deasy told the Sunday Independent yesterday that Fine Gael TDs and senators were "horrified" at the way Ms Creighton had been treat-

analysis, pages 26,29

ed behind the scenes since she spoke out against what she saw as "cute hoor" politics in Fine Gael.

"There was a comment in the newspapers from a Fine Gael source effectively threatening Lucinda," Mr Deasy said. "The threat related to running other Fine Gael candidates in her constituency.

"I don't think that is acceptable. I have since spoken to several members of the parliamentary party. They are horrified that an anonymous spokesperson can effectively threaten a sitting TD after she made what most people consider to be fair comment."

Mr Deasy added: "I think what Lucinda said last week was right. Funding of politics needs to change. The reaction of the hierarchy of Fine Gael to her comments has been completely over the top. Most people perceived her comments as being fair, on a genuine issue."

And yesterday, Ms Creighton, who is on holiday in France, told the Sunday Independent that she would not stand for "threats and trying to bully me into submission".

In relation to speculation that the former Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell may contest the election for Fine Gael in her constituency of Dublin South East, Ms Creighton said: "I'm not afraid of Michael McDowell. In fact, if he is on the ticket, I am sure we'll win two seats."

The issue of funding of political parties is now firmly on the agenda. Green Party TD Paul Gogarty last week said his party would be prepared to leave Government unless the issue was dealt with before the end of the year.

Fianna Fail TDs, however, are not as enthusiastic as the Greens seem to be for an outright ban on corporation donations to political parties.

Yesterday Green Party leader and Environment Minister John Gormley said: "Recent revelations about the fundraising activities of Fine Gael highlight once again the need for reform in this area. The inordinate influence of big business and wealthy individuals on legislation and government policies must come to an end."

However, a more immediate issue at the moment is the ongoing, indeed worsening, crisis in Fine Gael following the recent unsuccessful attempt to have Mr Kenny removed as leader.

In June, Mr Kenny was forced to table of motion of confidence in his own leadership when his then-deputy, Richard Bruton, said he could no longer support his leadership.

The matter was thought to have been resolved when Mr Kenny narrowly won the confidence motion; a majority of his frontbench had expressed no confidence in his leadership, however.

With a fresh, but weakened mandate, Mr Kenny then set about the process of putting together a new frontbench, the outcome of which saw many of his critics demoted and several others deeply unhappy that they had not been rewarded.

The upshot is that Fine Gael is more divided now than at any time in its recent history. At a recent meeting of Young Fine Gael, Mr Deasy said: "There's a deep split within the party, and I think that it's beyond repair."

It then became immediately clear that the issues which had led to a challenge to Mr Kenny's leadership had not been resolved in the unsuccessful heave against him; suddenly the issue of his continued leadership is again live, and likely to be tested before the end of the year.

At the MacGill Summer School in Donegal last week, Ms Creighton called for an end to what she said was "cute hoor" politics in Fine Gael.

She also warned about what she said was the risk of Fine Gael becoming a lightweight version of Fianna Fail.

Mr Creighton said: "There can be no room in Fine Gael for cute hoor politics. These are the politics which have defined and tainted Irish public life like an incurable cancer. We cannot be satisfied with low standards in high places. Fine Gael in government must be much more than simply 'Fianna Fail Light'."

Mr Kenny subsequently said he was "disappointed" that Ms Creighton had publicly raised concerns about the fundraiser. "These are internal matters for the Fine Gael party. I'm disappointed that they were raised at a public forum like the MacGill School and, from that point of view, I would have preferred had they been brought to my attention either through the parliamentary party or directly."

Asked if he saw any merits in Ms Creighton's comments, he replied: "The Fine Gael party have no truck with rogue builders, with hooky characters or shady characters. We have no dealings with brown envelopes, influence-buying, or dig-outs. The Fine Gael party is absolutely above board in all its financial dealings."

Asked if Fine Gael would be giving the controversial donation back, the Fine Gael leader said: "I'm not going to cast aspersions upon anybody."

Pressed on the issue, he added: "Insofar as that's concerned, that money is gone through the system, it's perfectly above board." Pressed further, he said: "It's gone through our system. It's not going back."

Sunday Independent

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