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Kenny launches battle to win back the people

IT'S going to be a particularly horrific Halloween night for Taoiseach Enda Kenny as he bids to win back the people.

Fine Gael TDs and senators are shaping up for a stormy parliamentary party meeting following the party's disastrous presidential campaign.

Gay Mitchell only got 6.4pc of the vote in last Thursday's ballot as the party slumped to its worst ever performance in an Aras election.

Mr Mitchell ended up with only half the first preferences of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and was never a serious contender in the race.



Hierarchy

Now, the party will attempt to move on from the debacle at its next parliamentary gathering, which could be as early as Wednesday.

Attention is to focus on the choice of Mr Mitchell as the Fine Gael candidate when the party hierarchy was believed to favour Pat Cox or Mairead McGuinness.

Mr Mitchell did not attend the announcement of the result of the final count, leaving it to Enda Kenny to take to the stage.

The candidate claimed that, having congratulated Mr Higgins on Friday, he was told by his team that there was no need to turn up again in Dublin Castle for the conclusion the following day.

However, his no-show was embarrassing for the party.

Mr Kenny told the gathering: "I should say, it wasn't to be Gay Mitchell's campaign, but on his behalf, and on behalf of his wife, Norma, I would thank all of the people who worked on his campaign over the last many weeks. Gay is the leader of our group at European level -- he will continue to be so.

"He's a good man, has always worked for the principles that he believes in politics."

But behind the scenes efforts are under way to repair the damage caused by the disastrous performance.

Independent candidate Mary Davis, who polled lowest of all seven candidates, said she had made a mistake by not turning up and felt badly about it subsequently.

"I was genuinely unaware of the protocol or my duty to be there. I thought Saturday was the stage for Michael D, Sabina and their family. I didn't realise others would be there," Ms Davis said.

Reports today revealed that, during the campaign, Mr Mitchell did not want to be seen with Mr Kenny at the Ploughing Championships so as not to alienate Fianna Fail voters.

Meanwhile, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howling is involved in dispute with the Referendum Commission after he criticised its chairman.



Investigative

The Commission has insisted its chairman, former High Court Judge Bryan McMahon, was right in comments he made about the referendum to give more investigative powers to Oireachtas committees.

The referendum was defeated by 53.3pc to 46.7pc.

Mr McMahon had said it was not possible to state definitively what role "if any" the courts would have in reviewing the procedures adopted by Oireachtas inquiries.

But Mr Howlin blamed Judge McMahon for spreading "confusion" among voters.