Compromise could avoid bloody Fine Gael family war for leadership

The one question on the minds of most people in Leinster House in the last two days has been whether Enda Kenny will walk or be pushed.

Renowned for his stamina, optimism and above all else survival skills, there has been speculation the Taoiseach may, in fact, cling on to his diminishing reign in Fine Gael and in Government.

However, many Fine Gael backbenchers agree that the logical position is that he will see the reality of ‘coded’ language being used to move him politely out of Government Buildings.

“He’ll go home to Mayo and read the tea leaves. Kenny is very pragmatic and he’d not want to destroy his legacy or cause a family war in Fine Gael,” offered one experienced Oireachtas member.

Like it or not, there is a plot now to oust the two-time Taoiseach. It is just a matter of how.

Even Mr Kenny’s loyalists point to how previous heaves or Fine Gael leadership contests have played out before. This could get very dirty. But must it?

Facing hints on Wednesday night about his leadership at the parliamentary party, a passive Enda Kenny was willing to take the blame for the botched handling of the whistleblower fiasco over the last week.

Addressing members on the fifth floor of Leinster House, he said he “accepted responsibility” for what had happened. Furthermore, observers noted that the solemn Mayo TD said he realises people have “pressures and frustration” and he is prepared to discuss these another day.

Enda Kenny is no fool. He knew this challenge was coming. Juggling minority government spats, a fast-approaching Brexit and several damaging inquiries, it was only a matter of when the party young bloods took their knives out of the sheaths once again.

Roll back over previous months when outspoken party TDs Brendan Griffin and Jim Daly expressly warned about the need to be prepared for a snap election.

Shane Ross’s quip that Enda was a “political corpse” may have been proven wrong by Mr Kenny. But he now knows he is facing into the barrel of a gun as disgruntled backbench TDs are prepared to bring a motion of no confidence against him at the next Fine Gael party meeting. Nobody wants this. Even the Taoiseach managed to let out a resigned “c’est la vie” when he was wished good luck at a committee meeting yesterday.

Another factor is that many of Mr Kenny’s key allies have moved on. Phil Hogan, his trusted enforcer during the last 2010 heave, is now a commissioner in Brussels; his former economic adviser, Andrew McDowell, is with the the European Investment Bank and former party strategist Frank Flannery no longer works directly for Fine Gael.

Enda Kenny could be very alone if he put up a fight to hold onto his tenure.

He might be hopeful of taking the title of the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach from the late John A Costello — a feat he could achieve if he stays in office until after mid April. It’s a legacy worth fighting for. Indeed, those keen to move him on could come to a arrangement and give him this entitlement as a “caretaker Taoiseach” while the succession race goes ahead.

This seems like an acceptable compromise. It may be messy. But it would stop a formal heave and another bloody Fine Gael family war


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