Monday 19 March 2018

FG contenders hold their fire in order to protect themselves

Is the country heading for a general election in the next few weeks? Photo: Arthur Carron
Is the country heading for a general election in the next few weeks? Photo: Arthur Carron
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

He or she who wields the knife shall rarely wear the crown.It's a simple rule of politics that all of the contenders for Enda Kenny's position are conscious of.

The reality is that if Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Frances Fitzgerald or any other Fine Gael heavyweight wanted the Taoiseach gone it would happen overnight.

All it would take is one significant voice to call for his head and the momentum would quickly become unstoppable. However, the trio know it's too soon. They must first jockey for position and an element of that is standing by the party leader when things get tough.

There was an opportunity to strike in the hours after the General Election disaster but the confusion over what the result meant for the formation of a government led the ballot box survivors to unite rather than divide.

And in order to survive, Mr Kenny created the notion of 'new politics' - which is code for a consensus government where almost everything moves at a snail's pace so as to avoid controversies like those that emerged last week.

It's worth remembering though that the Mayo TD has presided over two dismal election campaigns. Before the recent loss of 20 Dáil seats there were 105 councillors who fell under the truck of the medical card fiasco in 2014.

The fact that the Taoiseach's performance during the General Election campaign was widely seen as contributing to their downfall should have further sealed his fate.

However, the complexity of the result meant that nobody had a proper mandate to rule and therefore Mr Kenny remained in power.

Over recent days all of the above ministers, and others like Paschal Donohoe and Michael Noonan, have backed the Taoiseach.

They do honestly believe that he ran a good show since 2011, bringing the country back from the brink.

All agree that the minority Government would probably not have been a runner except for the Taoiseach's pragmatism during the negotiations.

And they know that he still has the confidence of a significant portion of the parliamentary party.

But what they refuse to say publicly is that, for all those positives, he is now a medium-term liability.

The threat of a snap election will always hang over this Government until it eventually collapses - and it will. When Fianna Fáil, the Independents or even Fine Gael bring it down is the real question.

"Enda knows the clock is ticking. He has made a series of moves like bulking up the Seanad with ex-TDs and promoting extra junior ministers to extend his longevity. That has bought him some time," said one senior party source.

However, another noted that the unexplained reappointment of the 'sacked' James Reilly as deputy leader has tested a lot of people's patience.

"Reilly doesn't know the organisation so saying he's the one to rebuild it won't wash," the source said, adding that selecting somebody young and more dynamic would actually have gained Mr Kenny kudos.

Although the Taoiseach has stated he wants to remain for a full-term, his Cabinet ministers don't believe he means that.

Furthermore they don't believe that is feasible - but they won't heave. Not yet anyway.

Irish Independent

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