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Come whine with me: that's Enda's girls' night out

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Imelda Henry and Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Imelda Henry and Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Regina Doherty

Regina Doherty

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Imelda Henry and Mary Mitchell O'Connor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny held a 'women only' dinner for female members of the Fine Gael party in a bid to quell dissent within the party last Tuesday night.

About a dozen female backbenchers attended the dinner in The Cellar at the Merrion Hotel after they received the email invite.

Mr Kenny had infuriated many of the women within Fine Gael by his failure to promote a single one of them to a junior minister position during the summer.

Tensions within Fine Gael have lingered since then, and Mr Kenny's invitation comes as the party continues to slump in the polls.

However, several of those present at the dinner were less than impressed with how the event transpired.

One female TD told the Sunday Independent: "This was not a clearing of the air, as some of us would have hoped. It was a love-in, a non-event. Nothing was achieved."

Another deputy said: "He has ignored us for three-and-a -half years and all of a sudden expects us to love him. There is a lot of angst, a lot of us are pissed off at him. He has lost the middle ground of the party and he is trying to regain it, but that didn't happen the other night."

Before the dinner, a number of the women said they thought Kenny would use the occasion to listen to their concerns, and give them a chance to air their grievances.

But a number were said to be "fuming" afterwards when the event turned into what one of those in attendance described as a "listen to how great I am" night hosted by Kenny.

Among the TDs confirmed to have attended the event were: Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Gabrielle McFadden, Michelle Mulherin, Regina Doherty and Aine Collins. Senators Catherine Noone and Imelda Henry were also present, according to sources.

Despite criticism from some female TDs, Kenny's constituency colleague Michelle Mulherin said the dinner was a good bonding exercise.

She told the Sunday Independent: "I can't speak for everyone but from my point of view it was a very nice thing to do and everyone had a pleasant evening. I suppose it was just to touch base in general and see how people were getting on. It was a bit like a Christmas party but it wasn't a mad evening, it was more that there was a bit of bonding."

She confirmed that neither promotions, nor the passing over of some of the women for promotions, were discussed at the event. And she argued that Mr Kenny has done much to promote gender equality.

"There are two women in senior ministerial positions so things are definitely improving. That wouldn't have happened a few years ago. I think it's a case that we have come on leaps and bounds from the way things were."

When asked why it was a 'women only' event, Ms Mulherin added: "Now and again as women we get together ourselves and it was just another person to the mix. He may have plans for the men too."

Dun Laoghaire TD Mary Mitchell O Conner described the night as a chance for Enda to "reconnect with the women" of the party.

"It had been said to him that he needed to get back in touch with backbenchers as he had been a bit distant and this dinner is what that was about. I could only stay for 10 minutes as I was on Prime Time so I popped in out of courtesy," she said.

Mr Kenny last July drew the ire of the Fine Gael female cohort by failing to promote a single one of them to become a junior minister.

The Taosieach has also been criticised for promoting Arts Minister Heather Humphreys to the Cabinet ahead of more senior women such as Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell.

Sunday Independent