Thursday 13 December 2018

Fine Gael ministers hatch secret plan to replace Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Getty
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Getty

Fionnán Sheahan, John Downing and Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael ministers have a plan ready to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny swiftly if the Government collapses and there is a snap election.

The behaviour of Independent ministers has prompted further doubts over the stability of the Coalition.

Mr Kenny agrees that he won't lead the party into the next election. But new party rules involve every member of Fine Gael having a vote in the election of the next leader. The unwieldy process would take several weeks to conclude.

Read more: Taoiseach branded a 'control freak' by own Cabinet minister

Read more: Fine Gael's pork-barrel deal with the Independents should be published

During Government negotiations, Fine Gael ministers discussed how to take a shortcut if there was another election.

The plan hatched was for the losers of an initial vote among TDs, Senators and MEPs to drop out, so cutting out the grassroots vote. Senior party figures told the Irish Independent this plan is still the best option if the Government collapses.

Mr Kenny will today be grilled by his own party about the huge losses in the general election, which were blamed largely on his own performance.

His leadership will be to the fore at the Fine Gael think-in in Newbridge, Kildare.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has taken aim at the records of potential FG leadership contenders.

Today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be grilled by his own party about its huge losses in the General Election, caused in part by his own campaign gaffes.

Mr Kenny's leadership will be to the fore at the Fine Gael think-in, as TDs and senators grow increasingly anxious about when and how he intends to step down.

Two reports on the February General Election are to be debated by the parliamentary party at its preparation meeting in Newbridge, Co Kildare, before the Dáil returns in two weeks' time.

There were already serious tensions about the set-up for today's debate, with TDs complaining about the failure to give them one of the reports and complaints about the length of time devoted to the second one, which was compiled by a team of TDs.

But the Fine Gael party chairman, Martin Heydon, who is hosting the meeting in his home constituency, has insisted that there will be adequate debate.

"It is important that everyone's voice be heard so that lessons can be learned and I believe that will happen," Mr Heydon told the Irish Independent.

Other deputies said they were unhappy that they will only receive a short summary of the report prepared by party supporter and academic Dr Marian Coy, who chairs the Michael Collins Institute.This report looks at campaign failures and communications breakdowns.

A second report will be given by Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell, following a survey done by herself and fellow TDs Alan Farrell of Dublin Fingal, Peter Burke of Longford-Westmeath and Maria Bailey of Dún Laoghaire. This is critical of communications between Mr Kenny's staff and parliamentary party members and general communication failures during the election campaign.

Carlow-Kilkenny Fine Gael TD Pat Deering said the party failed to hold a proper assessment of the local council elections in May 2014, which also delivered heavy losses.

"Many mistakes made in 2014 were repeated in the General Election because important lessons were not learned," he said.

The issue of Mr Kenny's expected departure as leader will be a major underlying theme of the two-day gathering. But it appears less likely that it will lead to a direct challenge to Mr Kenny, who has said he will not lead in the next election, which many members now fear could happen suddenly, with the party unprepared.

One TD who raised the issue in the recent past, Jim Daly of Cork South West, repeated his view that the leadership question had to be dealt with after the Budget on October 11 .

"That has been my position before and it has not changed," Mr Daly said.

The election reports will be discussed this afternoon, with a reply from Mr Kenny.

Irish Independent

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