JIM Daly TD (Cork South West constituency) and Brendan Griffin TD (Kerry) often feature in journalistic dispatches that pose the question if Enda Kenny really has a tomorrow’s world. And the focus is always the same: when will he throw in the towel and give up being leader of the party? The two politicos have no answer.
But they’re not alone. Contenders for his job, Ministers Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney share the lack of knowledge. Yet, although the search for an option to Kenny leads to much meeja discussion, the topic does not seem to have grabbed the attention of rank and file Fine Gael supporters in the same way that it engages ambitious aspirants to high public office.
The man in the street, the punter in Dinty’s, couldn’t care less. He/she only begins to take notice when a wannabe-taoiseach, who previously lurked in the gloom, jumps out and gives the challengers for Kenny’s job the fright of their lives.
Someone like the Lady Macbeth of non-malignant politics, Regina Doherty! Could she be in the running for the leadership? Possibly, even though she blotted her copybook by demanding that Inda should outline his timetable for departure.
Admonished her for imprudence (Varadkar described her intervention as ‘unhelpful’), Regina recanted and contritely declared with a fervour that would have impressed North Korea’s Kim Jong-un that she had ‘utter confidence in our Taoiseach’s leadership.’
Another dark horse is Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald whose cause is being advanced by the Minister for Children, America’s Katherine Zappone. She could well emerge as a compromise candidate should the complex debate between those supporting Vlad or Simon prove too knotty a problem for Blueshirt brains.
Of course, Fitzgerald also ‘remains fully committed to supporting Mr Kenny.’ Nonetheless, she doesn’t rule out becoming leader and, displaying a modesty as oily as that of Ms Doherty’s, recently declared that a leadership challenge wasn’t ‘her style.’
Oh, and the ‘Oirish’ Sunday Times floated the kite that Minister Paschal Donohoe (the Widow Twanky of Irish politics) might well be in the running. According to the Brits, Kenny and the awful Michael Noonan favoured him as their kind of guy. Clearly made of the right stuff, Donohoe was true blue, a safe pair of hands and conservative to the core.
Otherwise, say the meeja analysts, Kenny would not have promoted him three times since 2013. To the ordinary Joe Soap, that says something important about the exemplary qualities required for a Blueshirt leader.
Picking up the feelgood story, ‘De Paper’ gushed that FG could do an awful lot worse than select Donohoe. They said he was well read, smart, with a business background.
What’s more, his friendly manner had earned him respect across the floor of the Dáil.
As far as the ex-Old Lady of Academy Street was concerned, his outstanding virtues as transport minister included ‘staring down’ the unions on strike in Irish Rail and ‘showing a steady hand’ in his handling of the sale of Aer Lingus, ‘which had the potential to become politically toxic.’
What a CV! What an endorsement! No doubt about it: he’s the man for the job!
And, while all that is happening, pressure is mounting on Kenny to give a sign, if only to counteract the impact of several bolshie backbenchers at a FG parliamentary party who impudently asked him to clarify when he intended to leave for pastures new.
The hotbed of Blueshirt critics includes John Deas,y who in 2012 pulled no punches when he declared that people in Fine Gael were ‘disgusted’ with how the party was being run, and that there was a fear of punishment within the parliamentary party if people did not the toe the line. Four years later, to judge by the ongoing rumblings, not much has changed.
Because, while Kenny cryptically might suggest that he might step aside before the next election, he also said that it was his declared intention to see out the full term in government as leader of Fine Gael. It’s a stance that does not impress the ‘constitutionally discontented,’ namely those TDs who see polls indicating that 69% of FG supporters want Kenny to go now (July Red C Poll).
Or the Ipsos-MRBI poll which shows Vlad enjoying 31% of public support; Coveney trailing on 21%, while the laconic Fitzgerald can only muster 10%.
Needless to say, the traditional red herring has begun to be thrown around: that is to say some power-hungry politicos depict Kenny as a danger to their chances of re-election. Kenny, they cruelly observe, is like an ancient malodorous relative, hogging the kitchen fire, and who won’t do the decent thing and bugger off.
Question is, where does that leave local lad, Jim Daly? Well, it was not without significance that Vlad the Protection Minister was in Skibbereen recently for the opening of Daly’s new constituency office.
The combination of the two was a sign of the times, although not entirely unpredictable after Daly’s challenge at the Newbridge ‘think-in’ earlier this month. He said the party had to discuss the party leadership, and soon.
Yet, galling for the dissidents is the possibility that Kenny may try to stay in power until well into 2017, at least until May 6th, the first anniversary of the formation of his minority government.
Reinforcing such a likely state of affairs is Kenny’s announcement at the ‘think-in’ that he was planning a reshuffle of ministers next year.
That really threw the cat among the pigeons!
To make matters worse, Kenny also disclosed that he was arranging a ‘shadowing programme’ involving senior government ministers and backbenchers.
Humble rank and file TDs would spend an arranged period of time ‘shadowing’ the big boys, the ministers, in order to learn what it is like to serve in Cabinet. A torrent of ridicule greeted Kenny’s proposal, with some dissidents suggesting that in fact he was taunting them at the very time they were hugger-muggering about tabling a ‘no confidence’ motion in him.
Ironically, for those with long memories, the ‘shadowing’ plan was reminiscent of the party’s very much discredited JobBridge scheme whereby unemployed people got work experience and €50 on top of the dole.
West Cork’s Jim Daly had been a most enthusiastic proponent of JobBridge, describing it to this newspaper as ‘a win-win scheme for the unemployed to get a chance to work whilst availing of training and upskilling.’
But Daly certainly did not have in mind this particular version of the JobBridge thing! In Kenny’s hands, it looks like Batman is foiling the Joker’s wicked plots! Which is a touch of class from the Taoiseach – and goes to show there’s life in the old dog yet!
And his message to the malcontents? The Dear Leader will not be moved easily!