Ministers forced to defend Kenny after 'whingers' gaffe
Ministers have been forced to defend Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid concerns in Fine Gael that his campaign performance has damaged the party's chances.
After 48 hours of his "All-Ireland champion whingers" gaffe dominating the news cycle, Mr Kenny finally moved to clarify the remarks he made in Castlebar, Co Mayo, on Saturday.
He said he was referring to Fianna Fail politicians in the town, not ordinary members of the public.
It came amid mixed results for Mr Kenny's party in opinion polls and issues earlier in the campaign, such as the length of time he took to rule out a post-election deal with Independent Michael Lowry.
Fine Gael sources last night told the Herald of concern at Mr Kenny's performance so far.
"So much of the campaign has been spent talking about his mistakes ... We had hoped for better, but it's not over yet," said a source.
Another noted that while the party was fully behind Mr Kenny, the events of recent weeks would be remembered with "a level of anxiety".
Mr Kenny last night offered his "full apologies to the people of Castlebar". "There was no offence meant to any member of the public. I was having a political go at a small number of Fianna Fail councillors," Mr Kenny said on RTE's Six One.
Earlier Mr Kenny was asked if he regretted what he said.
"Mea Culpa. I accept I should have clarified my remarks."
He added that the public was "quite entitled to give me its anxieties and their concerns".
Mr Kenny was asked if he believed Fine Gael was pleased with his performance on the campaign trail.
"I've made mistakes in my life," Mr Kenny said. "I've always admitted my failings... On the other hand I can look back with pride on the last five years with a team that had to make the most difficult decisions of any since the foundation of the State."
Ministers Charlie Flanagan, Richard Bruton and junior minister Paudie Coffey were asked what marks out of 10 they'd give Mr Kenny on his campaign performance.
Mr Flanagan described Mr Kenny as an "outstanding Taoiseach" who has received "plaudits right across the globe".
Mr Bruton - who previously challenged Mr Kenny for leadership of Fine Gael with a failed heave in 2010 - said that "leaders are measured really by how they react at times of crisis".
"It hasn't been perfect. We all acknowledge mistakes can be made, but we are in such a much better place under Enda's leadership than we were when we started on this journey ... On that score the Taoiseach is an outstanding success."
Mr Coffey said: "I've the fullest of support [for] An Taoiseach and his colleagues."
Asked if that meant they were all giving Mr Kenny 10 out of 10 for his campaign performance report card, Mr Flanagan replied "11".