Taoiseach weathers summer of discontent — for now

Moves to oust Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader are on ice for the moment after the Taoiseach’s drubbing in recent days, where the smell of revolt was clearly in the air.

Mr Kenny came out fighting for his political future yesterday as a series of senior party figures took to the airwaves and put a sudden halt to talk of revolt.

For the moment, a somewhat forlorn Mr Kenny looks like he will make it to the finish line and escape unscathed for the summer when the Dáil rises in two weeks.

The insurrection is over before it even began. But who was it that marched Fine Gael TDs to the top of the hill in the last week in what looked like a co-ordinated attempt to topple Mr Kenny?

By yesterday afternoon, three Cabinet members had calmly played down any talk of a coup as they backed up their party leader.

A very magnanimous Education Minister Richard Bruton, who lost the last leadership challenge against Mr Kenny in 2010, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that now was not the time to “challenge the leadership”. Mr Kenny’s experience was needed in the post-Brexit talks, he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan confirmed he had texted his party colleagues at the weekend warning that dissent could destabilise the Government.

“Now is not the time for change. Now is not the time for instability. Now is the time for everybody to work together,” he said.

By yesterday afternoon, a third senior minister was holding the line, defending Mr Kenny.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan reiterated earlier remarks by his Cabinet colleagues that the minority Government was barely two months old.

“The party and the country are fortunate to have Enda Kenny as Taoiseach now,” Mr Noonan said in Brussels.

The combined cavalry row-in behind Mr Kenny came after the Mayo man had earlier spoken in his home county and insisted he would not be stepping down anytime soon.

“My focus is entirely on the future,” he said. “And for those who might be interested, I will not be diverted from that task and that duty and that responsibility which is the mandate given to me by the people.”

That was that, then. The four-and-a-half-day mini- revolt by Fine Gael TDs was over. Phones of disgruntled backbenchers started to ring out and anyone who still picked up admitted their moves and proposed motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny were now being put on hold.

Were there any instigators leading the half-hearted heave, though?

Officially, those close to Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, who has the biggest support among voters to succeed Mr Kenny, maintain that he has had no hand or act in the statements coming from TDs demanding Mr Kenny set out how and when he should stand down as leader.

The outspoken minister, who admits he wants to be Fine Gael’s leader, has also been out speaking to the media regularly, and more than other senior figure in the last week. It is doubtful that Mr Varadkar marshalled the half a dozen or so TDs into openly taking down Mr Kenny.

But it would be unimaginable to think the Dublin West TD was not aware of the feelings of those TDs, especially after what was widely considered a disastrous week for Mr Kenny. Sources close to Mr Varadkar were also openly going out of their way to insist he would “not be part of any heave”.

This relates to the old adage that whoever wields the dagger seldom wears the crown. And for the moment, those knives — after being quickly drawn — have been quietly put away.

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