Enda Kenny has been given days to resign as Taoiseach or he will face a motion of no confidence in his leadership early next week.
Mr Kenny’s disintegrating authority is set be confronted by senior Fine Gael members in the coming days after ministers warned of the possibility of a snap election.
“Things are going to move very quickly,” said one senior minister last night.
“There’s a feeling the Taoiseach must now make way or he will be moved against by way of a motion at a meeting next week,” said the minister.
Ministers Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, the top contenders to succeed Mr Kenny, last night pressed for Fine Gael’s future to be discussed after Mr Kenny accepted responsibility for the whistle-blower scandal of recent days. They and others want an early meeting next week to address the leadership.
Mr Kenny is not only coming under pressure from his own party to consider his position but the Independent Alliance was also close to leaving Government this week.
In a Dáil debate last night, the Fine Gael-led Government was forced to defend its actions over whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe and the handling of false child sex abuse allegations against him.
A motion of confidence in the Government was triggered by Sinn Fein after the events of recent days.
An earlier Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting heard several senior figures warn members it needed to be prepared in case a snap election was called.
Mr Varadkar, Mr Coveney, and Health Minister Simon Harris were among those who warned that a fresh general election may happen “sooner rather than later”.
Ministers and backbench TDs called for an early meeting next week, before Mr Kenny travels to Brussels for a meeting on Brexit.
Party sources said the issue of his leadership was central to the move.
Mr Kenny has said that he will not lead the party into another general election, but ministers are worried about being prepared if an early poll is triggered.
Sources also stressed that ministers had called for “unity” in Fine Gael.
Party figures said Mr Kenny at the meeting accepted “responsibility” for what had happened in recent days but that there was also a need to focus on the inquiry into the treatment of whistleblowers.
Mr Kenny told the meeting he accepted that people had “pressures and frustration” and he was prepared to discuss these another day if necessary.
The developments come after a week in which Mr Kenny admitted his guilt in making up a conversation about the whistleblower scandal, and was accused of misleading the Dáil.
The minority Government last night survived an attempt by Sinn Féin to force a general election-after Fianna Fáil chose to abstain from the Dáil vote.
Members of Independent Alliance were also unable to express confidence in Mr Kenny despite a “frank and open” meeting with him.
Asked if the group still had confidence in Mr Kenny, one Alliance member said: “We have confidence in the Government to do their business and that is as far as we could go.”
Speaking about Mr Kenny, he said: “The man is damaged, seriously damaged, and he should come to a natural conclusion as a result of that. He has shorted his lifespan as Taoiseach by his actions.”
Transport Minister Shane Ross, a member of the Alliance, told a press conference the party had considered pulling out of Government and was still not satisfied with Mr Kenny’s version of events on the whistleblower controversy.
The group said it would be supporting the Government after being promised an investigation into the gardaí by an independent and international policing expert.
The terms for a full inquiry into an alleged Garda-led smear campaign will be debated in the Dáil today — the case of Garda Keith Harrison, another whistleblower, is expected to be included in the terms.
The tribunal will examine contact between gardaí, the media, members of the Government, Tusla, and the HSE, amid claims Garda management targeted whistleblowers.
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