Outspoken Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin has called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to step aside for the sake of the country, and warned the party is on “high alert” for a snap election, but is ill-prepared.
Mr Griffin said Mr Kenny had failed to get a good deal on banking debt in Europe and that a new face might better negotiate Ireland’s position on Brexit.
The Kerry TD told the Irish Examiner there was a “vulnerable Dáil” arrangement that could collapse any day. His remarks will re- ignite debate about the Fine Gael leadership and the path the party is taking as it holds its two-day pre-Dáil think-in, beginning today in Kildare.
Speaking about Fine Gael’s second term since the February general election, Mr Griffin was emphatic about the minority government being in a vulnerable position.
“I think this new politics thing is the biggest load of BS. It’s not new politics, it’s a new set-up.
“The reality is, the enforced situation, is to keep things functioning. This set-up we have, the 32nd Dáil, it doesn’t change your interaction with your constituents. Your clinics and work on the ground is the same. In Leinster House though, it’s a weird kind of feeling around the place. It’s one day at a time. It’s just so fragile.
“If an issue arises, if any two people from Fine Gael, the Independents or two Fianna Fáilers decided not to abstain or vote against something, that’s how vulnerable things are. It’s a very vulnerable Dáil. There’s a sense around Leinster House that people are on edge. I even notice that the printers are extremely busy, the design people are extremely busy, everyone’s doing their newsletters, not on a war footing, but certainly on high alert.”
Mr Griffin, chairman of the Oireachtas committee on transport, put his head above the parapet in July when he called for a change in Fine Gael’s leadership to be decided over the summer. He said his party would be decimated if there was a snap election and Fianna Fáil pulled its support for the Fine Gael minority-government.
“I really hope it lasts but I don’t trust Micheál Martin... But Fine Gael’s big problem at the moment is that we are not election ready. We’ve a huge problem in that regard. In a scenario where an election happens, Fianna Fáil are ready to go to the country, the Independents are always ready. Fine Gael aren’t ready. We have the huge issue of our leadership, who leads us into the next election.”
Fine Gael got a “huge bashing” in the 2014 local elections losing over 100 councillors and this year’s general election was a “disaster” where half of its TDs lost seats, he noted. “That’s a massive rejection by the people. Yet we still have the same leadership in place. As a party we never had a really proper discussion about the leadership.”
Fine Gael needs to reconnect with voters, he said. “I do feel that we need a generational change of leadership to connect with people who have left us and rejected us because they feel that we have rejected them.”
He said Mr Kenny needed to step aside. “I feel that the time has come, a time comes for every politician, that things need to change. I think that’s the best thing for Fine Gael, for the country.” A “strong percentage” of the Fine Gael parliamentary party shared his view.
Mr Griffin rejected claims Mr Kenny was best placed to lead Ireland in Brexit talks. “I suppose you have to look at our last big test in Europe, which was our banking debt, a lot of people feel we didn’t do very well there. You could argue now that with the UK now in a new era, that maybe the best thing would be for Ireland to have a new leader as well into that new era.”
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