There was "strong bemusement" tonight after Taoiseach Enda Kenny reappointed former minister for health Dr James Reilly deputy leader of Fine Gael, writes Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner Political Editor.
At a heated meeting of the parliamentary party, Mr Kenny informed party members of his decision to re-appoint Dr Reilly, much to the surprise of many present.
In a very pointed jibe at Mr Kenny, Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd call for “new leadership” of Fine Gael, with calls for Mr Kenny to stand up to Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross.
At least five other TDs – such as Kerry’s Brendan Griffin, Carlow-Kilkenny’s Pat Deering and Louth's Peter Fitzpatrick were damning in their criticism of the direction of the party.
Mr Griffin reportedly said Fine Gael needs to prepare for “every eventuality”, such as another election.
Given Mr Kenny is not standing again, many present took his comments to mean a change of leader is needed.
The deputy leader move is a big surprise, with the position widely expected to go to Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
Ms Fitzgerald was said to be visibly upset and the announcement.
"She almost fell out of her chair," said one TD.
Dr Reilly lost his Dublin Fingal Dáil seat at the last general election, but was appointed to the Seanad by Mr Kenny.
Just last month, Mr Kenny said: “No, James is not the deputy leader of the party. Obviously, he was the deputy leader and he did a very good job.”
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Pat the Cope Gallagher defeated Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan by one vote to become Leas Ceann Comhairle.
Mr Gallagher received 69 votes while Mr Durkan received 68 votes.