A number of Fine Gael TDs would consider withdrawing their support from the Government if Enda Kenny does not step down by the end of the year.
Last night one Fine Gael minister said Mr Kenny will face intense pressure to make his intentions known after the budget as TDs are unlikely to have patience with him beyond that point.
Repeated calls have been made on the Taoiseach to outline when he will stand aside as leader and it is understood that some of his party colleagues would be willing to bring forward a motion of no confidence in him if the issue drags on.
Kerry TD Brendan Griffin yesterday said a “fresh start” was needed in the party and the leadership must be addressed now for the sake of the country.
“I certainly feel for the country’s sake and for the party’s sake that we need to confront this matter now. Here we are over six months after the general election, which was a huge loss for Fine Gael — we had 50% more TDs this time five years ago than we have now. If that’s not an alarming wake-up call for a political party in any scenario, what is?
“A time comes where you have to just say we have to confront this, it’s not a pleasant thing to be confronting anyone’s leadership but the reality is that as members of the party we have a duty to protect the party.”
One minister said that while many were content with allowing Mr Kenny stay on for the budget, his leadership “is going to be a very big focus after the Government has passed the budget”.
However, he added that those calling for his departure could also force an election which the party is “not ready for”.
“Most people I talk to see a change of leadership and an election as the same thing and no one wants an election,” he said.
Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd, who called on Mr Kenny to clarify when he will step down at a parliamentary party meeting before the Dáil’s summer recess, said: “I would agree that we must get the budget through.”
But he added: “I was the first people who called for clarity at the parliamentary party meeting and have not changed my view on that, we have to have clarity on that.”
Cork South West TD Jim Daly said he was not getting “hung up” on the exact date or time for Mr Kenny’s resignation but said it would have to happen after the budget.
“The reason I am commenting on the leadership of the party is because the Taoiseach himself has said that he will not lead us into the next election. That leaves us in a situation where we could have an election at any stage the instability of this government is there for all to be seen so I do think it is urgent.
“We have been given three budgets by Fianna Fáil, whether we make it to three budgets or not nobody is sure but we have to pass the first budget and then between the first budget and the second budget the party needs to have a grown up conversation about the issue of leadership and there is no point pretending that it is going to go away.”
He said he believed all Fine Gael members shared this opinion.
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