Kenny calls on Fine Gael leadership dissenters to focus on work

Embattled Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told party colleagues who are calling for him to step down as leader to “concentrate on their duties”, instead of plotting to overthrow him.

However, the Fine Gael leader has once again failed to indicate when he will set out plans for his departure from office, risking fresh dissent before a weekly party meeting tonight.

Speaking at a joint Brexit press conference in Berlin, with German chancellor Angela Merkel, after a week in which a potential backbench revolt was stamped out by senior cabinet ministers, Mr Kenny said that, despite ongoing criticism of his time in office, his party colleagues needed to “bed down” and focus.

And, in a thinly veiled warning to a number of cabinet members who are believed to privately want the Taoiseach to step aside sooner rather than later despite publicly backing him, Mr Kenny added that ministers, in particular, needed to “concentrate on their duties”, instead of their personal ambitions.

“In respect of the Government and the party, we are in a position now where the Government is in situ,” said Mr Kenny.

“Every minister has a brief and a set of commitments to follow through, so what I am interested in is that ministers have time, now, to bed themselves down, do the department work they have to undertake, and move the country forward.

“We have an agreement with Fianna Fail in terms of confidence and supply, we have a programme for government with the Independent Alliance and the Independents, with over 600 commitments, and my focus is entirely on that future, in making this happen.

“We have a great deal of work to do, in the time ahead, and I would like to think that people can concentrate on their duties in the time ahead.”

Mr Kenny made his comments in response to a question on when he intended to step down as leader and when party colleagues would be informed of the schedule for a takeover before the next election — issues that he failed to answer in his response.

The remarks — at a press conference in which Ms Merkel congratulated him on his re-election as Taoiseach and said it was “important we continue our good co-operation” — also came ahead of Fine Gael’s weekly parliamentary party meeting this evening, in which Mr Kenny is likely to address the dissent of recent days.

While weekend reports suggested that a number of backbenchers may table a motion calling for a new leader to be put in place by the end of this year, due to the risk of a general election early next year, those involved in the plot confirmed, in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, that this would not now take place.

In recent days, almost all Fine Gael cabinet members have stressed their ongoing support for Mr Kenny.

They include senior ministerial figures who have been touted as potential replacements for Mr Kenny.

One of the main dissenters, Kerry TD Brendan Griffin, yesterday said backbench TDs had now done all they could to force the leadership issue and that any further movement “requires” ministers who have ambitions to replace Mr Kenny to make their views known.

Gerard Howlin: 10

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