Dismay in Fine Gael as Kenny says election will be in spring
Fine Gael has reacted with utter dismay following Taoiseach Enda Kenny's decision to bow to Labour Party pressure and end the intense speculation surrounding a snap general election.
Mr Kenny took several of his own ministers by complete surprise after closing the door on a November poll during a television interview. Some of the Taoiseach's closest supporters believe his handling of the election date has presented a "weak" picture of his leadership.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin accused Mr Kenny of entering into a "humiliating climbdown" by signalling a spring election date.
During a 'Week in Politics' interview, the Fine Gael leader told RTE's Aine Lawlor that it is his "intention" to hold the general election in the spring of 2016 and that he sees "no reason" for him to change his mind in the coming weeks.
Mr Kenny insisted that he has always been consistent in his position that the election should be held in the spring - despite days of intense speculation surrounding a November poll.
"I have been consistently very clear in this. It is my intention to hold the election in the spring of 2016," Mr Kenny said.
Pressed on the prospect of a November election, Mr Kenny insisted: "I see no reason to change my mind."
"This is not about me as Taoiseach or me as a public representative. This is about the future and people have to have the choice of continued stability and investment."
There is now a strong view within Fine Gael that by declaring a spring poll, Mr Kenny has effectively caved into pressure from Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton.
Throughout the weekend, there was an understanding within Fine Gael circles that Mr Kenny would use an interview on 'The Week in Politics' to leave open the door for an early general election.
He had been expected to state that his preference has always been for an election in 2016, but that this view could change over time.
However, there was a clear consensus in both Fine Gael and Labour that the Taoiseach has now ended the prospect of a November election.
"He went much further than we had expected - it's cause some disquiet, that's for sure," a Fine Gael minister said.
"It presents us as being weak, and that includes the Taoiseach," another source said last night.