FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny’s recent honeymoon period, free of questions about his leadership, has come to an end.
And doubt is being raised about the willingness of former opponents to rally behind him in advance of a general election.
Mr Kenny has been at pains to convince the public the wounds caused by Richard Bruton’s attempt to overthrow him have been healed. But yesterday the big winner from the post-coup reshuffle, Finance Spokesman Michael Noonan, was forced to explain why a recent party fundraiser and a senators’ event were not supported by the most prominent rebels.
He said there were still people within the parliamentary smarting, but this has been “exaggerated”.
The front bench had held an extended meeting and relations were good, he claimed. “I presume that there are people who have not settled in yet but the bulk of the party seem to be moving in the one direction and saying the decision has now been made and we must get in behind it,” he added.
Mr Noonan attracted criticism last week for appearing to rubbish the former front bench’s key jobs strategy, New Era.
But he said his dismissal of the strategy’s promise to create 105,000 jobs was a mistake on his part.
“I handled that particular interview badly,” he told RTÉ. And he said he expected the plan would lead to between 90,000 and 100,000 places coming on stream.
Meanwhile former Fine Gael education spokesman and organiser of Mr Bruton’s rebellion, Brian Hayes, said Mr Kenny’s leadership was not copper -fastened.
He said if Fine Gael were to lose the byelections and fail to regain some popularity in the polls, the leader’s position would be difficult.
“He’s been given a second chance and he has got to grasp it,” he said.”
“He brought the party so far; can he bring it to the next level? That’s where the issue lies now. I hope he can for all our sakes,” he said.
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