Wednesday 22 November 2017

Enda garrottes rebels in under 10 minutes - and gets a rousing ovation for it

Josepha Madigan at the Dáil yesterday ahead of the Fine Gael meeting last night. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Josepha Madigan at the Dáil yesterday ahead of the Fine Gael meeting last night. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Enda once shot rats with a shotgun through a window in his days as a primary school teacher in the Glenisland School in Castlebar.

He called on those same skills again as he deftly garrotted his critics and disembowelled them before they even realised the operation was under way.

It wasn't pretty but it was all over in less than 10 minutes. They hardly felt a thing.

And then, they clapped him. Enthusiastically, for over a minute. North Korea style.

"He clobbered the whole feckin' lot of them. Tremendous. Tremendous."

A Kenny loyalist was first out of the meeting, quivering with excitement at the Mafia-style taking down of the impudent young bucks.

Kenny, the unlikely political genius, the designated survivor - perhaps the most cunning of the most cunning of them all - had smoothly showed his detractors what's what.

The 'rebels' said not a word, cowed by their own good manners, brought to heel by the man who has held his seat since the days of Liam Cosgrave and mustard corduroy.

All they could do was to grit their teeth and smile - though underneath, they fumed.

He will walk on a date of his own choosing - and not before.

"Kenny's Easter Eggxit", chortled a wag.

A strange brooding mood had settled on Leinster House as all waited with impatience for the main event of the evening. Martin Heydon, chairman of the parliamentary party, was striding around with an armful of folders.

He was preparing for a long night, with lots of other items on the agenda as well as the leadership question.

"They seem to have had plenty to say in the media all week - I'd prefer if they said it out in the open," he said grimly.

Nobody was more intrigued than Fianna Fáil about what was going to happen. "Enda has something up his sleeve, I think," ventured one far-sighted deputy, adding: "He's looking far too happy."

He revealed that, funnily enough, the party had set up its own WhatsApp group last week.

But after the hapless Charlie Flanagan fired off his own indiscreet message, "it's been very quiet ever since", mused the Soldier of Destiny.

And then it was under way, beginning slightly later than the 5.30pm scheduled start.

There were plenty of jokes about metal detectors after backbencher Josepha Madigan's request that no mobile phones be used throughout the meeting.

But the ploy seemed to have worked.

Nothing leaked. Not a sausage. It was the harshest of pre-Lenten fasts.

"Nice to see there's nothing on Twitter anyway," Senator Frank Feehan noted teasingly to breathless reporters as he left the meeting on a brief break.

And then, relief - the first tweet at 6.20pm timed nicely for the 'Six One News'.

Inside the meeting, Enda was speaking very quickly and with determination, referring to notes which he hardly ever does.

Some noted that he was "nervous" and "under pressure", drinking from a glass of water.

He told the members that he had "good judgment".

"When I hear talk of threats, caucuses and no-confidence motions after more than 40 years they are no interest to me. No interest to me," he repeated.

Fine Gael needed to think about how they wanted to "hand the party over", he warned sternly.

The blood "drained" from the faces of the rebels, according to reports - bearing in mind that spin is undoubtedly lurking about somewhere.

Mr Heydon declared the party would go forward "united".

The meeting ended on a note of suitable gothic drama, the bells tolling for a 7pm vote.

Inside the chamber, Fine Gael were a giddy bunch.

The leadership battle was under way - just at a slower pace than they might have wished.

A faint flush on Enda's face was the only sign of the kill.

Mr Coveney and Mr Varadkar chatted amiably - but then a brooding silence fell. "They can't come back again with this - they fecked it up," said a gleeful source.

Irish Independent

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