Backbench Fine Gael TDs want Kenny to resign by Christmas
Angry backbench Fine Gael TDs want Taoiseach Enda Kenny to step down as party leader before Christmas as fears grow over the stability of the Government.
There is increasing concern that Fianna Fail "will put a gun to Kenny's head" and force an election before the Fine Gael leader steps down and gives his successor time to rebrand the party.
Mr Kenny's detractors want a "bloodless coup", but there are fears the Taoiseach will not step aside of his own accord after he announced he wants to see out the implementation of the Programme for Government.
Further concerns were borne out by the Taoiseach's ministerial and Seanad nominations which were seen as appointments aimed at shoring up support in the parliamentary party.
Despite Mr Kenny's attempt to protect himself from a heave, TDs and senators, previously seen as loyal to the Taoiseach, are positioning themselves ahead of the leadership race. Party members have also been secretly discussing whether they have the numbers to oust the leader.
"He might want to go under his own steam and flex the last bit of muscle he has left but the reality is that if he digs in it won't be him who makes the decision," a TD, once seen as a Kenny loyalist, said.
Another recently promoted party figure said: "My preference would be the summer, but he won't go before the Budget so he would have to set out his stall by Christmas."
Meanwhile, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is being tipped by his party colleagues as the clear favourite to succeed Mr Kenny.
Mr Varadkar's commitment last week to give councillors more social welfare benefits was considered a power move by his supporters.
Fine Gael sources also pointed to calls the minister recently made to unsuccessful general election candidates as an indication he is on a campaign footing in the leadership race.
Mr Varadkar is understood to prefer waiting a year at least before making a move, but his supporters would like to see him in place sooner.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney, who is also a contender, is understood to have commissioned research shortly after the general election, leading some to believe it related to the leadership contest.
But sources close to the minister said the research was aimed at determining how the party lost so many votes to Fianna Fail in his constituency.
Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald is also thought to be canvassing support after she brought a group of female TDs out for lunch in an upmarket Dublin restaurant.