FINE GAEL deputy leader Richard Bruton has admitted publicly what many in his party have been reluctant to – that they were better off losing the 2007 general election.
He also confirmed what many believe – that Enda Kenny is “a bit wooden”.
“Most people would say that maybe our guardian angel was sitting there on our shoulders guiding us,” Mr Bruton said in reference to 2007, pointing out that, if it had won power, Fine Gael would have been blamed for the subsequent economic collapse.
“We would have been blamed for all of this,” he said. “You could imagine the sort of rhetoric that would have been coming from the Fianna Fáil benches.”
Although he acknowledged the party was disappointed at the time, “it was good that we didn’t have to do it [take power]”.
That view is at odds with the official Fine Gael position, which is that the party would have been glad to win in 2007 as it would have managed the economic difficulties much better than Fianna Fáil and possibly prevented the worst of the crash.
Mr Bruton also admitted party leader Enda Kenny lacked charisma in the Dáil and that his sound-bites could be improved.
“Yeah, he can be a bit wooden in the Dáil,” Mr Bruton said in the current edition of Hot Press magazine.
“People say that his 30-second sound-bite is not crisp enough, and I think that’s probably fair comment.
“But 30-second sound- bites [were] never the test of a good leader – and I don’t think it should be now. But that’s not to say that he couldn’t polish up his 30-second sound-bites.
“There’s always room for doing that.”
But Mr Bruton, despite admitting he would still like to lead the party some day, proceeded to staunchly defend Mr Kenny.
“I see his strengths. I mean, they may not always be apparent to the public, but he is a tremendous team builder, and he does give people a lot of discretion, and he has built up strong people around him,” he says.
Surprisingly, while indicting the Government for its part in the economic collapse, Mr Bruton had some words of comfort for Health Minister Mary Harney and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.
He disagreed with Ms Harney’s handling of the health portfolio but said she was still a capable minister. “If you were to ask me to rank ministers for the axe in the present Government, she wouldn’t be top of my list,” he said, before saying the same of Mr Lenihan.
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