herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

'It's time for him to go' - FG TDs piling pressure on Kenny to quit

Embattled FG leader and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Embattled FG leader and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Embattled Enda Kenny is coming under pressure to spell out when and how he intends to step down as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader.

Mr Kenny is being urged to set out his plan for departure immediately after October's Budget.

There is a now a growing consensus within Fine Gael circles that a leadership contest in the spring is a likely scenario.

Social protection minister Leo Varadkar yesterday reiterated his desire to succeed Mr Kenny as Taoiseach.

However, he declined to say when he would like to see a contest take place.

The Fine Gael leader has endured a torrid week, which began with a slap-down from DUP leader Arlene Foster, followed by a tense parliamentary party meeting when his credibility was openly questioned.

Mr Kenny was also painted as being weak after he capitulated to the demands of transport minister Shane Ross to allow a free vote on the issue of Mick Wallace's bill on fatal foetal abnormalities.

His decision to re-appoint James Reilly as deputy leader - just weeks after he was effectively sacked - caused utter shock.

Disastrous

The mood within Fine Gael is at its lowest point since the party's disastrous general election result in February.

The mood is likely to worsen next week when an internal report into the election result is presented to Mr Kenny.

There was particular shock and dismay yesterday after an opinion poll placed Fine Gael nine points behind Fianna Fail.

Yesterday, over a dozen ministers and backbenchers accepted that Mr Kenny's authority over the party has been eroded after the events of this week.

"He's damaged goods, it's time for him to go," one minster said.

Meanwhile, the decision by deputies to openly question Mr Kenny's authority at the parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday night has effectively set off the Fine Gael leadership contest.

Party chairman Martin Heydon yesterday said he wants to see a "plan in place" for Mr Kenny to be succeeded as leader.

Cork South West TD Jim Daly called on Mr Kenny to make his plans known after the Budget, while Louth deputy Fergus O'Dowd called for a "calm process over the summer" for the leadership issue to be discussed.

Mr O'Dowd also confirmed that he is interested in the leadership.

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