Enda Kenny’s parliamentary party held a marathon six-hour meeting at Leinster House yesterday, where TDs thrashed out its future and its disastrous election campaign.
Mr Kenny told his new and returned TDs that he would open talks with other parties today in a bid to drum up support to form a government. He insisted that he would not enter into any arrangement with others that did not guarantee a “stable government”.
Senior party figures gave mixed reactions about the party’s future, as well as why Fine Gael’s campaign had collapsed and saw the party lose as many as a third of its seats since the last election.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe, referring to the possibility of Fine Gael forming a minority government, told TDs there was “no point in having power” without authority.
Newly-elected Dublin-Rathdown TD Josepha Madigan agreed, saying that the party should not abandon its principles in any negotiations.
But other TDs signalled that maybe it was time to bury the hatchet with Fianna Fáil.
Junior finance minister Simon Harris said that there was a generation of people for whom “civil war politics meant very little”, according to a party source.
Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy made similar remarks, sources said, but earlier in the day also told reporters that there was talk about whether Fine Gael should in fact go into opposition.
Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan was more grave about the dilemma facing his party. According to those present, he said that his election in 2011 had been one of the “happiest” moments in his life, but that it had all gone downhill after that. The former banking inquiry member revealed that his supporters had told him at last week’s election count they would resign from Fine Gael if it went into power with Fianna Fáil.
Mr Kenny was said to have told the meeting that there was now a “changed political landscape” and that people needed to take cognisance of this. He said negotiation teams to form a government would be put in place next week. Mr Kenny also said he was open to suggestions on whether Fine Gael should put anyone forward for the position of Dáil Ceann Comhairle, which would require nominations by seven TDs.
The Taoiseach also told the meeting it had been “upsetting” seeing long-time TDs, such as Jimmy Deenihan, pack up their belongings this week after losing their seats.
Party sources confirmed that Simon Coveney, the agriculture minister, also apologised for earlier in the week seeming to suggest that Fine Gael was open to abolishing water charges.
He told the meeting that he “regretted any confusion” caused, but also suggested that the comments may have put Fianna Fáil “on the back foot” as they want to abolish charges, said sources.
Galway West TD Seán Kyne told the meeting that the Fine Gael campaign had not resonated with voters outside of Dublin.