Backbench TDs pressing for Enda Kenny to step aside are poised and prepared to criticise him again if the Fine Gael leader makes any more serious errors.
Disgruntled TDs, keen for a leadership change, have dismissed the Taoiseach’s attempt to break bread and have coffee with his detractors as a charade and a fickle show of affection.
A heated row broke out at Fine Gael’s midweek parliamentary party meeting over Mr Kenny’s recent reappointment of James Reilly as deputy leader.
Mr Reilly, a former health minister and now a senator, yesterday said he would take advice from local members of Fine Gael and TDs on how the party could change before the next election.
“My role is very much a link between members, the party, and the leadership. There are people who are unhappy and I have absolutely no problem at all sitting down and talking to them,” he said.
Following criticism from backbenchers about being crowned deputy leader again despite losing his Dáil seat, Mr Reilly refused to say if he had considered not taking up the role.
“The position is in the gift of the leader,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Mr Reilly had told the party meeting on Wednesday that angry TDs were using him as a “proxy” to get to the Taoiseach.
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Some TDs are in fact poised to move against Mr Kenny again if he displeases them.
The Reilly appointment came during the week of a bad poll for Fine Gael as well as a dressing down by unionists over a failed idea about an all-island post-Brexit assembly.
TDs say they will move, possibly with the support of more senior figures, if Mr Kenny is involved in any other “serious errors” or bad situations for Fine Gael, even over the summer.
One TD said: “This was a shot across his bow so he doesn’t make any more fuck-ups. If he gets something else wrong, there’s no fear. We will be speaking.”
Another TD said the rebel TDs would be watching Mr Kenny’s actions closely. “Our mission is accomplished, for now. This has speeded up the process [his resignation]. If something else happens during the silly season, it could precipitate more senior figures moving [against him].”
Cork South West TD Jim Daly said the position of Fine Gael deputy leader should have been voted on by the parliamentary party.
A conversation about the leadership still needs to happen, he claimed.
Parliamentary party chair Martin Haydon said Wednesday’s meeting was “robust” and “cathartic”.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, whose party is propping up Fine Gael in government, said there is a need to focus on improving services and what Ireland requires following the Brexit vote. He said Mr Kenny should still be supported in office.
He told RTÉ that general calmness had descended on Leinster House in recent days, but cautioned against Fine Gael members becoming distracted over a heave, after only recently voting to return Mr Kenny as Taoiseach. “It’s incredible some would question their own decisions in that regard.”
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