Thursday 18 January 2018

Kenny wants political director to 'babysit' his high-maintenance TDs

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is going to hire a cross between "a babysitter and a councillor" to mind his high maintenance Fine Gael backbenchers.

Mr Kenny has committed to hiring a political director to help co-ordinate strategy and the direction of the party's role in government. He pledged last week to improve party communications amid widespread dissatisfaction among his TDs and senators.

Fine Gael has suffered a drop in a series of opinion polls, with Fianna Fail gaining substantial ground.

It is understood that the position will be funded by the party. But it is also viewed as something of a poisoned chalice, as the appointee will have to listen to whinging from TDs and also go up against Mr Kenny's Praetorian guard of handlers for personal access.

"Political director? What about babysitter or a glorified county councillor listening to queries?" said one party source.

"Unless they're a former TD or senator and can go into the Members (the Oireachtas Members Bar in Leinster House), where is this person going to meet these TDs?

"The backbenchers are delighted they won't have to go through them (Mr Kenny's handlers) any more. There are so many things happening," the source added. It is understood senior Fine Gael ministers have been asking Mr Kenny for the past two years to appoint someone to specifically liaise between TDs and ministers and ensure the party's policies are being promoted.

The role would also involve drawing Mr Kenny's attention to problems that backbenchers are encountering.

And there is already speculation that Mr Kenny might opt for a well-known figure within the party to take up the post.

The Labour Party has also recently appointed a spin doctor to look after the party's backbenchers.

Sources close to Mr Kenny say he has been thinking about the move for the past year. The Taoiseach faced criticism from his TDs about how the party is communicating its message and about contact between ministers and backbenchers.

Irish Independent

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