Fine Gael deputy leader Dr James Reilly has warned colleagues not to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny with a "flashy" rival in an apparent attack on Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar's leadership ambitions, writes Fiachra O Cionnaith, Political Correspondent.
The senator and former Health Minister made the comment as he claimed any focus on the image of the next leader of Fine Gael instead of their achievements risks causing "a very painful experience" for the party.
Speaking to a Sunday newspaper, Dr Reilly said the reality is "people have had a very painful experience of flashy leadership in the past" and that "there is no substitute for hard work and honest endeavour".
In a staunch defence of Mr Kenny's time in power, he said "that is what Enda Kenny has brought as Taoiseach and still delivers", adding urging colleagues not to buy into "flashy leadership" alternatives.
While Dr Reilly did not name any potential leadership rival, it is widely believed he was referring to Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar who enjoys a high profile among the public and media.
Among the other potential future leadership challengers are Housing Minister Simon Coveney, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Despite strongly indicating he has no plans to resign from his position until 2018 and strongly suggesting he will still be Taoiseach when Pope Francis travels to Ireland that year, talk about who will eventually replace Mr Kenny remains high on the agenda of Fine Gael TDs.
Recent reports claimed Mr Varadkar has the support of 30 of the party's 49 TDs. However, the fact TDs, senators and MEPs account for 65% of any future vote, councillors 10% and ordinary members 25% means it is far from clear who is the best placed to eventually replace Mr Kenny.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael chief whip Regina Doherty has admitted to struggling to convince a number of Fine Gael TDs to turn up for crucial Dáil votes, despite the constant risk Government may lose the ballots due to the current Dáil make-up.
Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics programme, Ms Doherty said there are "some difficulties" as "some people feel the roles they're doing are more important than their role in the chamber".