Sunday 22 April 2018

Varadkar in move to halt FG 'heave'

Rebels discouraged in phone calls

PEACEMAKER: Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tony Gavin
PEACEMAKER: Leo Varadkar. Photo: Tony Gavin
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Minister Leo Varadkar personally intervened with backbench rebels in a bid to kill off any move against Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.

The phone calls came amid rumblings that some TDs were considering formal moves to try and oust the Taoiseach as party leader with motions at a Fine Gael meeting on Wednesday.

The Sunday Independent has established that Varadkar was last weekend in contact with backbench TDs, discouraging them from any move against Kenny.

One Fine Gael source said that Varadkar stepped in as: "He felt it was important that we wouldn't do damage to the party and that everyone would settle down."

Another source outlined their view of why Varadkar thought it wasn't the time to address the leadership question. "The overwhelming consensus view in the parliamentary party is that Enda Kenny should be given sufficient time to make his own decision to step down thus avoiding division.

"The memories and scars of 2010 took a long time to heal," the source added, referring to the failed 2010 heave against Kenny.

Any suggestion that Vardakar influenced backbenchers in discussions about challenging Kenny was dismissed by sources. The TDs involved were said to be "very much their own people".

However, a number of Fine Gael figures said the lack of an appetite by Varadkar or the other contenders meant there was little chance of a move on the leadership happening at this time.

No motion challenging Kenny was tabled at Wednesday's meeting and the leadership question appears to have been put to bed for now.

The lack of support for a move against Kenny from Varadkar and the other main potential leadership contenders - Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Housing Minister Simon Coveney - is being viewed as key to halting any potential heave in its tracks. All three publicly stressed that they supported the Taoiseach staying on as leader, with Varadkar insisting there is "no vacancy" at the top of Fine Gael when asked about his own ambitions.

Separately, Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday further drew a line under the issue telling East Coast FM the party just needs to "get on with the job of doing what we're elected to do."

"Enda Kenny will transition in terms of the leadership at a time that he believes to be appropriate," he said.

Asked if he'd rule out a bid to lead the party himself when the time comes, Mr Harris said he was focused on his ministerial brief, adding: "You don't rule something in or out that simply doesn't arise at the moment."

Sunday Independent

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