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Saturday 16 December 2017

Kenny under pressure as poll exposes divisions in Fine Gael

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

Enda Kenny's leadership was yesterday under renewed scrutiny as his failure to connect with voters was once again laid bare in disappointing poll figures.

Fine Gael was described last night by party figures as being "disjointed" and divided between pro and anti-Kenny factions as Mr Kenny struggles to make headway with the public.

And further "rumblings" in the party are predicted if two more opinion polls in the coming days provide further confirmation that Labour has overtaken Fine Gael as the preferred choice of voters to lead the next Government.

One party TD said the fears of those who had wanted to get rid of Mr Kenny last June and replace him with Richard Bruton had been realised.

"People are looking for a leader out there who they feel can take them out of recession. They unfortunately don't see Enda as a man who could do that for them," he said.

The TV3/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll found that Fine Gael's support had fallen to 30pc from 34pc; that just 24pc were satisfied with Mr Kenny's performance as party leader; and that just 19pc of people wanted him to be Taoiseach.

And the Fine Gael TD said that while another coup was out of the question, there would be pressure on Mr Kenny to resign if the party continued to languish behind Labour in the opinion polls.

"Enda has to seriously look at the situation and see if he wants to continue. It's not going to be a coherent party," he said.

Mr Kenny also has the highest dissatisfaction rating of any opposition party leader, with 50pc of people not happy with his performance. Mr Kenny, who was attending the funeral of a party member yesterday, did not comment publicly on the latest opinion poll.

Fine Gael Senator Paul Bradford said everyone in the party "from the newest member to the leader" had to work to ensure it was the biggest member of a future coalition Government.

"This is an unprecedented electoral opportunity for Fine Gael and we will not, or cannot, be satisfied with the runner-up position or the silver medal position," he said.

There is concern in Fine Gael that Mr Kenny is failing to match Labour leader Eamon Gilmore in gaining support for his party through media and Dail performances.


Another party TD said yesterday that Mr Gilmore was the best at expressing the public's anger whereas Mr Kenny had a "chairman's style" instead of being a "pop-star politician".

But senior party figures said yesterday they were "stuck" with Mr Kenny and believe it would be catastrophic to attempt another coup on Mr Kenny's position. One TD said there would be "no more of that sh*te".

Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly said the party would be looking to the future after the "rough summer" it had experienced.

"No more than Munster and Leinster meet and tear lumps out of each other, and then join up to play for Ireland as a team and they win. That's what we intend to do for Ireland," he said.

Party dissidents are hoping for a grassroots uprising among Fine Gael members which will force middle-ground Fine Gael TDs to encourge Mr Kenny's departure. But this is seen as a long shot within the party.

Fine Gael education spokesman Fergus O'Dowd yesterday ruled out any more "upheaval" in Fine Gael.

"The only upheaval will be at the ballot box when Fianna Fail are turfed out of office," he said.

Irish Independent

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