MICHAEL DUFFY and ÁINE RYAN
IT definitely was not the start to 2007 that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was looking for, but his Mayo running mates in this summer’s General Election have rallied around their colleague and party leader after the public questions about his leadership last week.
Deputy Kenny moved last week to dispel doubts over his leadership following comments by Fine Gael TDs John Deasy and Damien English that his position as leader would have to be called into question if their party did not form the next Government.
“Discussion on this issue is an unnecessary distraction from the task facing the party,” he said in a statement. “The rules of the party are absolutely clear on what happens after a General Election and I have written to Deputy Deasy to make it clear my position in relation to the comments made by him. I have left him in no doubt as to what I expect from him in terms of supporting the party and its objective of removing Fianna Fáil from office.”
Speaking to The Mayo News on Monday, Deputy Kenny said it was ‘not an issue’.
“My intention is to be Taoiseach,” Deputy Kenny added, categorically.
He predicted that his party would take three seats in Mayo but would not confirm if constituency colleague, Michael Ring, will be appointed if he becomes Taoiseach. This is despite Deputy Ring’s unequivocal support for Deputy Kenny regarding leadership.
“No potential Taoiseach would give such guarantees before an election. While Michael Ring is a highly-valued constituency colleague and a member of the party, and I will obviously be making appointments if elected, it’s not relevant now,” said Deputy Kenny.
The party’s General Election candidates in Mayo all backed their leader after the furore. Deputy Ring attacked the comments made by Deputies Deasy and English and said there was no support for a leadership challenge now or after the General Election.
“The only item on the agenda is the winning of the General Election and going into Government with Labour. Anyone who suggests otherwise is sabotaging the party. Since taking over as leader Enda Kenny has skilfully brought the party from the verge of extinction to within the grasp of Government,” he said.
John O’Mahony said he has ‘full and unwavering support’ for Deputy Kenny.
“The leadership qualities of Deputy Kenny were one of the main reasons why I decided to enter the election race myself and the comments made by the deputies in question last week are untimely and unfortunate,” he said.
Cllr Michelle Mulherin also rallied around her leader and running mate.
“Perhaps Deputy Deasy has given up the cigarettes and is a little on edge because his comments last week certainly made no sense,” said Cllr Mulherin. In 2004, Deputy Deasy was caught smoking in the Dáil Bar just weeks after the introduction of the Smoking Ban.
“Enda Kenny has met every challenge he has faced as leader with a steely determination and the results of the European and local elections are testimony to that. I believe last week’s story was no more than opportunism at its best and I further believe all of my colleagues are 100 per cent behind Enda Kenny’s drive to become the next Taoiseach,” said the Ballina-based councillor.