Sunday 18 March 2018

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

James Reilly. Photo: Steve Humphreys
James Reilly. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has offered to personally meet dissenting TDs over a cup of coffee as he attempts to draw a line over his leadership crisis.

There have been tense scenes at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting as TDs questioned the decision to hand Dr Reilly the job - just weeks after effectively being sacked.

The meeting, which is taking place in Leinster House, also saw Taoiseach Enda Kenny insist that he has no plans on stepping down in the short term.

Mr Kenny said he wanted to “draw a line” under the leadership issue and offered to bring dissenting TDs out for a coffee to discuss their concerns.

But just minutes into the meeting, the issue of Dr Reilly’s re-appointment was raised.

Cork South West TD Jim Daly is understood to have called on Mr Kenny to reconsider the appointment, according to sources present.

And Carlow/Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan asked Mr Kenny to give an explanation for giving Dr Reilly the job.

In response, Dr Reilly passionately defended his position. He said he was offered the post by Mr Kenny and duly accepted.

Read more: Questions over what Reilly knew in 2011

The newly appointed senator is also understood to have accused some of those present of criticising him as a proxy to question Mr Kenny’s leadership.

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

Kerry TD Brendan Griffin, who this week called on Mr Kenny to step down as Taoiseach and party leader, has told the meeting he does not believe his concerns have been addressed.

But addressing the meeting, Mr Kenny insisted he has no plans to step down in the short term.

He said the Government has a job of work to do and he is happy to discuss with their TDs their concerns over a cup of coffee.

Significantly, Mr Kenny gave no indication of how, and when, he will step down.

Also at the meeting, junior minister Catherine Byrne called on colleagues to stick together and put the bickering behind them.

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