Saturday 18 November 2017

If you're unhappy with Kenny, quit the party - minister tells dissenters

Fine Gael deputy leader Dr James Reilly arriving at Leinster House yesterday Photo: Tom Burke
Fine Gael deputy leader Dr James Reilly arriving at Leinster House yesterday Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael TDs dissatisfied with Taoiseach Enda Kenny's leadership should consider quitting the party and becoming an Independent, a Government minister has claimed.

During a tense meeting of TDs and senators, backbenchers warned Mr Kenny that he needed to address their concerns over his ability to lead the party.

And there were calls for him to backtrack on the appointment of James Reilly as deputy leader - two weeks after he was effectively sacked.

Mr Kenny defended the decision and said he wanted to "draw a line" under the leadership issue.

He also spoke of the need to "pull together" and emphasised the importance of "loyalty".

Read more: James Reilly hits back at party colleagues over his re-appointment during tense Fine Gael meeting

In a bid to quell the disharmony in the party, he promised to meet individually with his detractors "for a coffee".

He is understood to have named Cork South West TD Jim Daly, Carlow/Kilkenny TD Pat Deering, Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd and Kerry TD Brendan Griffin as individuals he will hold clear-the-air talks with.

In one of the stand-out contributions from the floor, junior health minister Catherine Byrne called on TDs dissatisfied with the leadership to quit the party.

And in a separate stand-off, Mr O'Dowd said he would not be "lectured" by Mr Kenny about the issue of showing loyalty.

Mr O'Dowd is believed to have said that loyalty is "putting your neck out" and bringing in two seats for the party in a constituency.

A number of TDs and senators spoke up for Mr Kenny, who received a round of applause following his contribution.

Senator Paul Coghlan told the meeting that Mr Kenny was the party's "captain" and that he deserved their full support.

Read more: FG contenders hold their fire in order to protect themselves

Much of the focus of the meeting was on the Reilly appointment, rather than the disquiet over Mr Kenny's leadership of the party.

Cork South West TD Jim Daly said that if he were to table a motion of confidence in Dr Reilly, not one member present would support it. He called on the newly appointed senator to reflect on his position.

Mr Daly was backed at the meeting by Carlow/Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan and by Mr Griffin, who earlier this week had called on Mr Kenny to step down as Taoiseach.

In response, Dr Reilly accused his detractors of criticising him as a proxy to "get at" Mr Kenny. He said he was offered the job by the Taoiseach and accepted it - rejecting suggestions that he is unpopular with members of the party.

"He spoke passionately and fiercely, but I think people remain unconvinced," one source said.

Mr Daly discussed the idea of tabling a motion of no confidence in Dr Reilly on Tuesday night with a number of colleagues.

But several hours before the meeting, Dr Reilly became aware of the plan by Mr Daly and others to criticise him and call for him to go.

Several sources at the meeting said it was "tense" but that grievances needed to be aired.

One source likened the party to being in the middle of a "family row".

"It was a case of get everything off your chest and let's move on," the source said.

After the meeting, Mr Kenny had dinner with Dr Reilly, Mr O'Dowd and Mr Deering, who has also expressed disquiet about issues within the party.

Irish Independent

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