Fine Gael think-in: From mojo to uh-oh - Enda’s back but faces a lot of headaches

Enda Kenny will be pondering this week if the improbable can be overcome. The first pressing matter on his mind will be if his native Mayo can beat the Dubs next Sunday in the All-Ireland football final. writes Juno McEnroe.
Fine Gael think-in: From mojo to uh-oh - Enda’s back but faces a lot of headaches

The second (equally pressing) matter is if the two-time Taoiseach can drag the Fine Gael-led minority government at least over the line for its first budget next month and, potentially, keep the fragile administration on the road for a number of years. Bookies and political commentators believe otherwise.

But, hang on a second. Maybe it’s not so. The “mojo” is back. Enda Kenny’s found that feeling again, that “zeal” to lead, as he told reporters at the Fine Gael pre-Dáil think-in.

His zeal for facing “challenging” politics is back, he said.

Speaking about Fine Gael’s difficult general election, he explained: “I just didn’t enjoy it, I always enjoy being out meeting people but I just didn’t this time,” he said. “I’ve reflected on this during the summer and, as they say, I’ve got my mojo back.”

That’s that then. But not really.

Ministers were upbeat as they arrived at Newbridge’s Keadeen Hotel yesterday but, behind the scenes, many backbenchers are worried the party is ill-prepared for a “snap election”.

There is no desire to return to the polls under the leadership of Mr Kenny. It’s the opinion of a “sizeable” number of people in the party, rebel backbencher Brendan Griffin told the Irish Examiner this week.

So what is the alternative?

Mr Kenny refused to address the matter yesterday, other than to say his mojo is back. But, behind closed doors, TDs debated the disappointing election result for Fine Gael.

Two reports were discussed by senators, TDs and MEPs at the meeting. The Marian Coy report had strong criticism of how the party election campaign was run and also featured negative comments about unelected officials and their role. A separate report by party TDs involved examining the communications regime of Fine Gael during the election and engaging with the grassroots, among other matters.

But only 25 minutes were put aside yesterday for different authors to discuss the two reports.

Mr Kenny said yesterday he hoped the recommendations would help Fine Gael “win back” seats in any future election.

In the meantime, to distract from criticism of his leadership and pre-Dail questions about when he might step aside, Mr Kenny yesterday put Government figures on alert by hinting of a Cabinet reshuffle.

He said that next year he would review the work of junior and Cabinet ministers. Such a move, similar to when he gave ministers score cards in 2013, may help keep disgruntled figures on their toes.

Such a move could allow for a mid-term review of the three-year government deal with Fianna Fáil.

It may be too late for the likes of Independent minister John Halligan but Mr Kenny hopes to bring his ministers and minority government with him, past the budget, through the winter and at least into next spring.

A series of headaches though face him, or his successor, over the next year. These include increasing demands for pay rises in the public sector, Brexit negotiations, the fallout with multinationals from the EU Apple judgment as well as a fresh inquiry now expected about Nama. The Siteserv probe is also under way and the health system, as always, is at breaking point in some regions.

The question is: Will Mr Kenny’s successors wait quietly in the wings as he sees through his second term? Doing so would mean slipping into his shoes potentially during a storm of inquiries or scandals that have been put on the long finger. Some mojo will be needed then.

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