The Kilkenny Journal

Thursday, 17th August 2017
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Items filtered by date: Thursday, 10 March 2016

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has moved to shore up his support within Fine Gael amid suggestions Fianna Fáil would seek his head as the price for a 'grand coalition'.

Meanwhile Kenny is defeated in the Dail as Taoiseach and now goes to the President this afternoon for the nod to continue as caretaker Taoiseach, while Fianna Fail's Sean O'Fearghaill TD has been elected overwhelmingly in the Dail as the new Ceann Comhairle. 

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Within Fianna Fáil, there is now a growing view the party would be best served supporting a minority Fine Gael government as it could effectively choose the timing of the next General Election.

 Mr Kenny will not have enough support to be returned to office, so he will have to resign pending the formation of a new government.

One way of making a 'grand coalition' of the two parties easier would be if Mr Kenny stood aside altogether. But the Taoiseach is set to furiously resist any such compromise.

The Dáil sits today for the first time since the General Election, which left Fine Gael with 50 seats and Fianna Fáil with 44.

VIDEO - Taoiseach Enda Kenny: I'm not stepping down as Fine Gael leader
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Neither party will have the numbers to secure the position of Taoiseach, meaning Mr Kenny will have to visit President Michael D Higgins and offer his resignation. He will then become a caretaker leader of the country. That's happening just now as we write. 

Fine Gael backbenchers sought to up the stakes last night by telling Mr Kenny that Fianna Fáil TDs who served as ministers during the boom era, with the exception of Micheál Martin, should not be part of any future Cabinet.

Such a theoretical ban would include Eamon Ó Cuiv, Brendan Smith and Willie O'Dea. John McGuinness TD  also served as a Minister of State at the key Department of Enterprise and Emp[loyment during that era. 

Mr Kenny was warned to "tread carefully" in any negotiations with Mr Martin as the prospect of a deal between the two main parties was openly discussed. This is especially important as Fine gael have lost some of their leading "heavyweights" in Phil Hogan, James Reilly and Alan Shatter since the 2011 election while Fianna fail has gained in negotiating strength. 

Senior Fianna Fáil TDs continue to rule out a 'grand coalition' - especially if Mr Kenny is Taoiseach.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward said the prospect of any deal is more likely if Fine Gael had a different leader.

"I'd have to be able to bring my supporters with me, and many of them are saying to me it would be easier for them if Kenny wasn't there," he told the Irish Independent. Bobby would expect equal opportunity in government to his constituency colleague John McGuinness and he is now much closer to leader Micheal Martin. 

Party TDs and senators voiced support for a proposal from newly elected deputy Colm Brophy that any future coalition must be referred to a Fine Gael Ard Fheis for approval. But that's unlikely to happen in either Fianna fail or Fine gael as such endorsement is not needed unless Fianna Fail were to actually go into partnership government with Fine Gael.  

Fine Gael TDs reacted angrily to what they described as constant "lecturing" by senior Fianna Fáil figures in relation to issues such as Irish Water. But Fianna Fail promised the postponement of water charges for five years and must deliver on this in any government arrangement unless they want to be hit hard by voters  in a new election.

And there was widespread applause at the meeting after it was suggested by Carlow-Kilkenny TD Pat Deering that Fianna Fáil ministers who served at Cabinet during the boom era should not be given ministerial posts in any Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition.

"Some of these Fianna Fáil TDs lecturing us were sitting at the Cabinet that oversaw our collapse.

"We can't have any situation where they are given that type of responsibility again," Deputy Deering stated to loud approval and table thumping. He's another Carlow-Kilkenny TD putting himself forward for notice for office and in fact Pat Deering is one of the Fine Gael business brains in the new Dail. 

Meanwhile Enda Kenny  also proposed the establishment of an all-party Dáil committee that would set out new guidelines for how the Dáil operated.

The committee would be chaired by the new Ceann Comhairle Sean O'Fearghaill  TD ,  But Mr Kenny will be concerned by the vastly different views expressed at the Fine gael parliamentary meeting in relation to coalition options.

Galway West TD Sean Kyne is understood to have spoken of the prospect of forming a minority government, while Carlow/Kilkenny backbencher John Paul Phelan told the meeting that going into opposition is an option worth considering. John Paul is one Fine Gael TD who would not be sorry to see the back of Enda Kenny as the Kilkenny deputy would have no future prospects under the Mayo party leader. Kenny doesn't talk to John Paul any more ever since the Ferrybank deputy stood up for his pro-life beliefs in the Dail against the old government on the abortion issue. John Paul has been frozen out by Kenny since that night and nobody would blame him now for opposing any continuation of Kenny as Taoiseach - especially as John Paul Phelan is one of the most capable deputies in Dail Eireann while he is left to languish on the back benches by Kenny. It's an injustice if ever there was one.  To his credit the Kilkenny government deputy has put his time in exile to good use by qualifying as a barrister.  He is one of the better speakers in the Dail and his treatment by the past coalition is a disgrace. 

But within Fianna Fáil, the feeling towards a grand coalition is mixed.

Senior TDs such as Barry Cowen, Willie O'Dea, Sean Fleming and Niall Collins are understood to be deeply opposed to such a scenario, while others privately say it is the "only show in town".  In Carlow-Kilkenny John McGuinness, outgoing  Chairman of the PAC,  is reported to support a partnership government and would be one of the Fianna Fail party's more businesslike negotiators with Fine Gael.  

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