Rebel Fine Gael TDs to defend position at meeting

Fine Gael backbenchers pressing for leadership change are prepared to defend their recent remarks at the weekly parliamentary party this evening.

Rebel Fine Gael TDs to defend position at meeting

However, senior Fine Gael sources now expect Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be given space after the meeting, following questions being raised about the timing of his departure.

It has also emerged that Fine Gael ministers are attempting to fix relations with Independent ministerial colleagues after their own recent squabbles.

Mr Kenny is expected to face questions at the meeting this evening about his resignation as party leader. While senior ministers in the last 48 hours rowed in behind Mr Kenny, an attack on the TDs who want the issue debated has now backfired.

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor was criticised by Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd yesterday, after she claimed it was “unpatriotic” to criticise Mr Kenny.

Mr O’Dowd fired back on Twitter: “A democratic difference of opinion on when the Taoiseach departs and when a new leader is elected is not unpatriotic. Disgraceful remarks.”

While some Fine Gael TDs say tonight’s meeting may be a “damp squib”, Mr Kenny’s leadership will be raised, even though it is not formally on the agenda.

Cork South West TD Jim Daly indicated that TDs would stand by colleague and Kerry TD Brendan Griffin, who had gone out on a limb and wants Mr Kenny gone over the summer.

Mr Daly said: “It [the meeting] must be grown up, open and honest. I sincerely hope there is a conciliatory tone. If members have issues, they should be allowed to air them. They should be free to make them.”

Mr Daly said his position was still that, after October’s budget, a conversation must be had about Fine Gael’s leadership.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said he expected talk about the leadership to be shut down after the meeting. Reiterating his support for Mr Kenny, Mr Donohoe said he would not put himself forward if the Taoiseach goes.

“That [discussion] is now what has happened from a number of my colleagues over the past number of days, I expect that debate will be concluding tomorrow, because the Taoiseach has made clear his determination to carry on with his work,” said Mr Donohoe. “I fully support him with that. There is no vacancy in the leadership of Fine Gael or in the Taoiseach’s office at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Independent ministers are “mending fences” following clashes with their Fine Gael cabinet colleagues.

The latest rift saw Independent and Fine Gael ministers openly trade insults over disagreements on how Cabinet voted on a Dáil abortion motion.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar accused alliance ministers of risking the Coalition’s stability over the controversy, but alliance ministers described his comments as “quite outrageous” and suggested that Fine Gael was destabilising the Government.

Alliance sources told the Irish Examiner that a key mediator or “programme manager” between both sides would be appointed in the coming days.

A source said: “The two sides are talking, trying to mend fences.”

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