Bid to force Fine Gael leadership change now at an end

Rebel Fine Gael TDs have accepted that attempts to push Enda Kenny to hand over his leadership in the coming weeks have now effectively come to an end.

Following a speech by Mr Kenny last night, backbenchers told the Irish Examiner: “That is the end of it.”

The development comes after two weeks of chaos for the Government and threats to bring motions of no confidence in Mr Kenny after his mishandling of the Garda whistleblower controversy.

A number of TDs and senators not considered Kenny loyalists said his defiant speech had kicked to touch any movement against the Taoiseach, given his commitment to deal “conclusively” with his leadership upon his return from the US after St Patrick’s Day.

One TD said it would have been worse if Mr Kenny had said nothing or if a leadership contest was to begin immediately. Instead, Mr Kenny has effectively given himself an eight-week window in which to hand over his leadership of Fine Gael, with party sources agreeing last night that Mr Kenny’s speech suggested there could be a new leader in place by Easter.

Responses to Mr Kenny’s speech from leadership contenders or backbenchers, though, were said to have been shut down during the meeting, when the agenda was swiftly moved on.

Parliamentary party chairman Martin Heydon had also told members at the beginning that they were not to take out their phones, for fears comments would be leaked to the media.

One outspoken rebel TD privately said: “It’s not that bad, as it [his resignation] is only weeks away. But I suppose this was done in an orchestrated way, debate was shut down.”

Mr Heydon said last night that the party was now “united”.

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