FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny believes a court case taken by Sinn Féin could be enough to trigger an election early next year.
And he said the mutinous ranks of his own party will remain loyal long enough for him to win the vote.
Mr Kenny said he did not think the Government could call three by-elections, as a tactic to thwart Sinn Féin’s ongoing High Court challenge, without putting every seat in the Dáil at the mercy of the people.
“I believe if the Government decide to make an announcement about their intention to hold three by-elections, as a means to dealing with a court case that is to be heard in October, that is tantamount to saying we are going to have a General Election.
“It would be, in my view, unthinkable for the Government to hold three by-elections that they will lose in the spring with, for them, the increasing danger of a loss of a vote in the Dáil,” he said.
Mr Kenny was speaking at his parliamentary party’s think-in at the Faithlegg House hotel in Waterford. He said his party was on an election footing and the rift caused by Richard Bruton’s coup in June had been put to bed. “This is not a broken party; this is a party with a clear and definite plan to fix a broken country.” Mr Kenny said Fine Gael was “strong enough and mature enough” to overcome its difficulties.
Yesterday, the party discussed voting strategies and plans to maximise the seats it could win in an election. To fulfil its ambitions, Fine Gael members in many constituencies who took opposite sides in the leadership heave will have to work together to oust Fianna Fáil incumbents.
One of the intra-party scraps will be in county where the party met for its meeting. Here, sitting TD John Deasy, who was part of the rebel faction, will have to bring in Kenny-supporter Paudie Coffey.
Flanked by Mr Coffey, Mr Kenny dismissed continued unrest provoked by Mr Deasy, who said Fine Gael had still not recovered.
Mr Deasy arrived at the hotel with restored frontbench spokesman Richard Bruton and fellow rebel Olivia Mitchell. Mr Kenny said he believed he had Mr Deasy’s backing in the quest to have Senator Coffey take a second seat in Waterford.
The two-day meeting is the party’s major gathering before the Dáil resumes. Once it does, Mr Kenny said it will do everything it can to force Fianna Fáil to call an election.
Mr Kenny said he had been given permission by his parliamentary party to make life as hard as possible for the Government in the new Dáil term. This will involve a miserly approach to the granting of pairs as a courtesy to Fianna Fáil TDs who are unable to make Dáil votes. He has instructed party whip Paul Kehoe to inform the Government pairs will only be granted where the absence is for issues of national importance.
This will aggravate the increasingly tight majority available to the Government. Since Fianna Fáil’s Tipperary South TD, Mattie McGrath, was stripped of his party’s whip, the Government has technically been relying on the support of those outside its ranks.
Former Progressive Democrat TD Noel Grealish has threatened to withdraw his support if Portiuncula hospital in Galway has its status downgraded.
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