FG defend Kenny for keeping his historic resignation private
Fine Gael TDs have been forced to defend their under-pressure leader Enda Kenny after a decision was taken to keep his historic resignation from office under wraps.
Mr Kenny has been criticised after it was ensured his meeting with President Michael D Higgins on Thursday, during which he tendered his resignation, was private.
The meeting took place at approximately 9.30pm - around 90 minutes following the adjournment of the Dail.
Although media outlets were invited to attend Aras an Uachtarain on February 3 following the announcement of the general election, no invitation was issued ahead of Mr Kenny's resignation.
"It was never intended that the meeting be anything other than private," a government spokesman said last night. It is our understanding that on previous occasions these meetings at the Aras were also private."
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that Mr Kenny had endured a very long day in the Dail and that "everybody knew what he had to do so he just went up and did it".
Dublin Bay South deputy Eoghan Murphy also cited the long Dail session Mr Kenny sat through yesterday and said the matter had been "overstated in the media".
Privately, a number of Fine Gael figures last night criticised the decision to keep the event private, and said it sent out a bad message. "He should have shown more respect to the public - after all he was resigning from one of the most important public offices in the land," said a Fine Gael minister.
Social Democrats co-leader Stephen Donnelly said the resignation was "a matter of national interest" and "serious event".
"I think an event like that is a matter of State and should ideally be open and transparent," he said, while sympathising with Mr Kenny "on a human level".
Meanwhile, tactics used by Sinn Fein on the first day of the Dail term have solidified Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's fears of forming a 'grand coalition' with Fine Gael, he said.
Sinn Fein exploited the issue of water charges and Irish Water just hours into the Dail proceedings in a clear attempt to force a vote on what could be a key stumbling block in future coalition talks.
Fine Gael favours keeping the charges in place, while Fianna Fail wants to see them suspended for five years and see Irish Water replaced with a smaller national water directorate.
But senior Fianna Fail sources said Mr Martin was left "spooked" after he was forced to deny being opposed to a debate on Irish Water.
Just hours into proceedings, senior Sinn Fein politicians demanded that Dail business be changed to allow for a debate on water charges.
The move led to frantic discussions among Fianna Fail deputies as Mr Martin weighed up whether to back the proposed motion.
But after Fianna Fail eventually agreed with Fine Gael that the motion was out of order, Sinn Fein accused Micheal Martin's party of running scared on the issue.
Last night, senior Fianna Fail members said the episode illustrated the dangers that will face the party if it enters into a 'grand coalition' with Fine Gael.
Sinn Fein Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald argued that Fianna Fail "converted to a view of abolishing water charges" and that her party was "forwarding a mechanism by which that objective could be achieved".
"Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party prevented the issue of water being placed on the agenda," she said.
"We want the issue brought before the Dail but it seems that other parties, including Fianna Fail, who said that water was a red-line issue for them, were not prepared to deal with the issue in the Dail, so it's a simple matter of flip-flopping".