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Fine Gael people had grave concerns about Kenny, says George

George Lee revealed he was "living a lie", as ex-Fine Gael colleagues turned on him today.

Politicians in the party attacked the RTE man saying he simply couldn't hack it.

But Lee told the Herald that he is happy that he is “no longer living a lie” and that “by Christmas, the penny had dropped”.

“I had plenty of milestones in my mind about when things might have happened,” he said today.

“Maybe in the summer when I went in, maybe September, then Christmas, then January, but nothing happened,” George said outside his Cabinteely home.

With Enda Kenny's leadership now under unprecedented pressure, Fine Gael has turned on the ex-golden boy in an astonishing series of attacks.

They claim:

- He had scope to influence policy

- Didn't understand how politics works

- And rejected that the RTE man “was paraded around the country like some sort of circus animal”.

FG’s Olivia Mitchell said George was “naive” if he expected to be “dictating policy” so soon.

“George is not a child. He knows that things move slowly in politics. It is a learning curve,” she said.

The party hierarchy were gathering in Dublin this morning to discuss the fallout from the fiasco. On Eamonn Keane’s Newstalk programme George refused to support Kenny as Taoiseach.

Mr Kenny has avoided making any public appearance since the shock resignation and sources said the leader’s fate now rests in the hands of deputy Richard Bruton.

If Mr Bruton was to initiate a push against Mr Kenny, he would receive significant support from the backbenches, however, the Dublin TD is unlikely to have much appetite for a leadership challenge.

"Richard would get a lot of support but he knows the damage it would do to the party and he has always been one of Enda's best supporters," a source said.

Fine Gael's leading TDs were throwing their weight behind Kenny today, while directing their ire at Lee and the nature of his decision.

Health spokesperson Dr James Reilly told the Herald: "There are 52 TDs, they all want to be heard. In a way he felt people should have come to him. It's a two way street."

Olivia Mitchell said: "George is not a child. He knows things move slowly in politics. It is a learning curve. Everyone in Fine Gael knew he was on his way up. I knew he wasn't happy in political life, but he never indicated that it was because of his lack of input into policy."

She said he was "naive" if he expected to be "dictating policy" so soon after being elected to the Dail. And Charles Flanagan hit back at critics of Kenny saying he has "no doubt" that he will lead Fine Gael into the next election.

"I don't believe there will be criticism of Enda Kenny. There will be a rejection of the idea that George Lee was paraded around the country like a circus animal," he said.


Speaking of back room mutterings within Fine Gael on Enda Kenny's future, Lee told the Herald: "I can tell you that there were a lot of people who were having grave concerns about him.

"I didn't leave over whether Enda Kenny should stay or go, I left over whether I should stay or go."

Mr Kenny's spokesperson said that he was confident that he has the support to continue doing his job.

He said that a meeting of party frontbench members at 11am was a "standard" meeting that took place every Tuesday.

The opposition leader will speak to the media afterwards to elaborate on a statement issued yesterday, in which he said that was "saddened" by Lee's decision.

Asked whether the party was fully behind the Mr Kenny, his spokesperson said: "That's certainly the sense I get at the moment. There is a lot of disappointment and sadness at George's decision.

"There is a degree of frustration that he left after such a short period. The party has been building and rebuilding for eight years and will continue to do that."

Charles Flanagan admitted that there "are some back benchers who are impatient" but he argued that "has always been the case". "There's nothing new in that. His [Kenny's] electoral record is second to none."