Thursday 26 April 2018

Taoiseach powerless to silence Fine Gael rebel TDs

Fionnan Sheahan and Fiach Kelly

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny appears powerless to shut up a rebel group on his own backbenches critical of the Croke Park Agreement.

But senior party figures believe the criticism of public sector reforms will actually be counterproductive as it will harden stances in the Labour Party and trade unions.

In their latest act of dissent, a group of eight TDs questioned the continued payment of increments and allowances and the actual level of savings from the public sector deal.

Senior party figures feel Mr Kenny will have to personally intervene to kill off the rebellion. But the party hierarchy has already made repeated attempts to silence the gang of newly elected TDs.

Mr Kenny said yesterday he'd prefer if the TDs expressed their views at the parliamentary party meetings, rather than in public.

As recently as last week, Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe was seen in a heated conversation with the ringleader of the group Eoghan Murphy.

The group is nicknamed the 'Five-A- Side Club' and has been increasingly making their presence felt within the party over recent months, jointly expressing views on policy.

Earlier this year, Mr Kenny personally warned Mr Murphy he didn't want party factions.

Despite losing a few members, the group has continued to meet and discuss ways to influence government policy collectively.

The eight TDs -- Sean Conlan, Paul Connaughton, Pat Deering, Brendan Griffin, Noel Harrington, Sean Kyne, Anthony Lawlor and Eoghan Murphy -- claim to have support elsewhere in the party.

Sources say Mr Kenny's problem is the group "can't be bought off" by promises of future promotion.

One of the rebels yesterday said: "I hope the Government doesn't try to shut this down like it did with the allowances. That will only make things worse." But one minister said the group was misguided and there was "a bit of a death wish about them".

"They feel there are no consequences to what they are doing. It is one thing looking for meetings and saying it in the party, it is quite another to go public," the minister said.

Mr Kenny repeated that Fine Gael parliamentary party meetings were the place to discuss these matters.

"The FG parliamentary party has probably been one of the most open public fora of any meeting around the country," Mr Kenny joked.

"Most things discussed there are reported along with others so we know all these things in advance."

Irish Independent

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