Coveney defends Taoiseach’s handling of campaign
Minister dismisses suggestion that defeat will lead to any questioning of Kenny’s leadership
Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food Simon Coveney dismissed any suggestion that the defeat of the referendum will lead to any questioning of Mr Kenny’s leadership of Fine Gael. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times
Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney has defended Taoiseach Enda Kenny over his handling of the Seanad abolition campaign and dismissed any suggestion that the defeat of the referendum will lead to any questioning of Mr Kenny’s leadership of Fine Gael.
Speaking in Cork, Mr Coveney said that he knew that Mr Kenny was disappointed at the outcome of the vote as he was himself but he would respect the decision of the people and reflect on it as he continues to lead a reforming government through a programme of change.
Asked if the result cast any doubts over Mr Kenny’s leadership of Fine Gael, Mr Coveney was emphatic that Mr Kenny’s position both within Fine Gael and as leader of the coalition was secure as he defended Mr Kenny’s decision not to engage in a TV debate with Fianna Fail ‘s Micheal Martin.
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“Not at all, no, I mean Enda is an extremely strong leader of Fine Gael as a party, he’s an extremely strong leader in government at the moment .... I think what we’ve seen today is the follow through on a promise he made that many people were sceptical that he would follow through on,” he said.
“But they shouldn’t have been sceptical because they should know him better than that and he will accept this decision and he will move on and try and make that decision work for the country and for the Irish people who have given their determination.”
Cork North Central Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher described Mr Kenny as “cowardly” for refusing to debate Seanad abolition on television with Mr Martin. Mr Kelleher said that the entire referendum which was costing the state €14 million to hold was very much Mr Kenny’s project and he should have come out to defend it.
“Enda Kenny failed singularly to engage with the public in any meaningful way in trying to put forward any coherent cohesive argument as to why the Seanad should be abolished - if you have a commitment to put forward a proposal , surely you should be willing to engage in debate,” he said.
“I think he was cowardly in the extreme in not engaging debate. Iit wasn’t about engaging with Micheal Martin, it was about engaging with the broader public and he never got involved - he never went to the studios or into the public domain to carry the debate to the people.”
Mr Coveney dismissed the comments, saying Mr Kenny had made the right decision.
“Fianna Fail are trying to turn this into a win for the Fianna Fail here by trying to land cheap punches on the Taoiseach. I think that’s nonsense - what’s happened here is beyond party politics,” he said.