Friday 28 October 2016

'If you don't like Enda, quit the party' - minister

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Fine Gael TDs dissatisfied with Taoiseach Enda Kenny's leadership should consider quitting the party and becoming Independent, a Government minister has claimed.

Dublin TD Catherine Byrne said she was "sick to the pit of my stomach" with the in- fighting in the party and said it was not the way to do politics.

Her comments came during a tense meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party which saw backbenchers warn Mr Kenny that he needed to address their concerns over his ability to lead the party.


There were also calls for him to backtrack on the appointment of James Reilly as deputy leader. Mr Kenny defended the decision and said he wanted to "draw a line" under the leadership issue.

He also spoke of the need to "pull together" and emphasised the importance of "loyalty".

In a bid to quell the disharmony in the party, he promised to meet individually with his detractors "for a coffee".

He is understood to have named Cork South West TD Jim Daly, Carlow/Kilkenny TD Pat Deering, Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd and Kerry TD Brendan Griffin as individuals he will hold 'clear the air' talks with.

In one of the stand-out contributions from the floor, junior health minister Catherine Byrne called on TDs dissatisfied with the leadership to quit the party. In a separate stand-off, Mr O'Dowd said he would not be "lectured" by Mr Kenny about the issue of showing loyalty.

Mr O'Dowd is believed to have said that loyalty is "putting your neck out" and bringing in two seats for the party in a constituency.

A number of TDs and senators spoke up for Mr Kenny, who received a round of applause following his contribution.

Senator Paul Coghlan told the meeting that Mr Kenny is the party's "captain" and that he deserves their full support.

Much of the focus of the meeting was on the Reilly appointment.

Cork South West TD Jim Daly said that if he were to table a motion of confidence in Dr Reilly, not one member present would support it. He called on the newly appointed senator to reflect on his position.


Mr Daly was backed at the meeting by Carlow/Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan and by Mr Griffin, who earlier this week had called on Mr Kenny to step down as Taoiseach.

In response, Dr Reilly accused his detractors of criticising him as a proxy to "get at" Mr Kenny. He said he was offered the job by the Taoiseach and accepted it - rejecting suggestions that he is unpopular with members of the party.

"He spoke passionately and fiercely, but I think people remain unconvinced," one source said.

After the meeting, Mr Kenny had dinner with Dr Reilly, Mr O'Dowd and Mr Deering, who has also expressed disquiet about issues within the Fine Gael party.

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