Fine Gael handlers to shield Enda Kenny from media
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will have his appearance "limited" throughout the General Election campaign by party strategists who fear he has been damaged by recent controversies.
Mr Kenny's leadership has for the first time been brought into focus as senior figures in both the Government and Fine Gael admit his handling of recent controversies has damaged the party's electoral prospects.
Fine Gael TDs are also reporting negative feedback from voters over Mr Kenny's handling of controversies surrounding Irish Water and the departure of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.
For the first time since being elected Taoiseach, some of Mr Kenny's own supporters have voiced concern over his leadership. However, there have been no suggestions that his position as leader will be challenged.
Sources have said that Mr Kenny's prominence in the election will be strictly controlled because of concern about his media performances.
Instead, high-profile ministers Leo Varadkar, Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Coveney and Simon Harris will take "centre stage" during the upcoming campaign.
"We need to ensure that the focus is solely on what Fine Gael can deliver in the future and not on controversies surrounding the Taoiseach," a senior Government figure told the Herald.
A separate source involved in devising Fine Gael's strategy described Mr Kenny's popularity as a "real issue for the party", adding that his appearances will have to be "limited".
However, Mr Kenny (left) will come under major pressure from the opposition to take part in TV and radio debates when the campaign swings into gear.
One TD yesterday broke ranks and publicly rebuked the Taoiseach over his handling of the events that led to the departure of Martin Callinan.
Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy said Mr Callinan did not deserve what he "ultimately got", adding that the Fennelly Report gave a "glimpse" of what Mr Kenny is like "behind closed doors".
Although Mr Deasy is an open critic of the Taoiseach, other TDs have privately expressed similiar views.