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Kevin Doyle: Peace breaks out in FG election bootcamp as all eyes focus on the prize

FINE Gael has a new religion and a new motto -- 'Peace in OUR time'.

The party's re-anointed spiritual leader Enda Kenny is preaching about "unity" and "election footings" as he warns followers that after 13 years their time has come.

Aptly enough, the opposition party gathered last night in Faithlegg to show their newfound belief in Enda's leadership, while a small few quietly confessed that religion is the root of all evil.

But whatever creed the Fine Gael faithful adopted after their summer recess, one thing was clear at the think-in last night: the focus has drifted from Kenny's leadership to polling day.



Stilettos

There were no handbags at dusk, no stilettos in the air and not even a wild swing on the golf course of the Faithlegg House and Country Club.

Instead peace broke out in Fine Gael's four-star camp as former Messiah Richard Burton appeared to accept that his day has not yet come.

However, as with all good religions, there were those who subscribed to the old testament and those who gave more virtue to the new testament.

Enda's problems haven't gone away. For sure, they have been set aside for now, but many believe they will return.

In the meantime, he is hoping and praying to become Taoiseach -- a feat that he expects to accomplish before April.

As Kenny strolled out to the front of the 18th century mansion yesterday afternoon, he pre-empted journalists' questions by immediately accepting that it had been a "difficult" summer.

Behind him stood many but not all of his party faithful.

On the roads approaching the Faithlegg Hotel were election poster-style signs from local TD John Deasy welcoming his colleagues to Waterford.

But as the Fine Gael family gathered for the traditional photocall, the local boy was nowhere to be seen.

When asked about the apparent snub, Enda had no real answer.

A helpful colleague piped up: "He's golfing."

But the Herald was later assured that the man who said Fine Gael was far from united was actually collecting Richard Bruton and fellow member of the Green Isle nine Olivia Mitchell from the train station. Imagine the conversation in that car.

Other Brutonites Lucinda Creighton and Olwyn Enright also missed the press call and the start of the election strategy discussions, opting instead for some hearty grub.

Regardless, a buoyant Enda declared: "This country cannot afford Fianna Fail any longer. Nor can our economy afford Anglo Irish Bank."

A few hours later, Brian Lenihan declared that the country would have two Anglo Irish Banks and unless Enda could manifest a miracle there was little else he could do about it.

Michael Noonan appeared to give an outdoor press conference condemning the plan.

Just as he did the heavens opened and a downpour arrived.

"It happens every time Anglo is mentioned," laughed one onlooker.



Bloodbath

Noonan described the Anglo plan as "fudge" and the clouds cleared so that he and ex-rebel Charlie Flanagan could take a stroll around the grounds.

Brothers in arms might be too strong a phrase but there is a palpable confidence in Fine Gael that their time has come.

And that for the Government, the end is nigh.

The message from Enda and his most ardent supporters is that 'united we stand - and the other crowd fall'.


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