Kenny embroiled in tense spat over referendum at FG meeting

Taoiseach berated over campaign by TD John Deasy at tense meeting

Taoiseach Enda Kenny berated for not attending campaign meetings. Photograph: Eric Luke/Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny berated for not attending campaign meetings. Photograph: Eric Luke/Irish Times


Taoiseach Enda Kenny and backbench TD John Deasy became embroiled in a tense spat over the Seanad referendum defeat at tonight’s meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party in Leinster House.

In testy exchanges, Mr Deasy contended that Mr Kenny had run away from a televised debate while the Taoiseach berated the Waterford TD for not attending any of the meetings organised by the party during the campaign.

At one stage the verbal altercation became so involved that party chairman Charlie Flanagan had to intervene and call for calm between the two.

Some colleagues who attended the meeting said Mr Deasy was very direct in his criticisms but was measured in his tone and did not direct them personally at Mr Kenny.

One TD, who spoke on the basis of not being identified, said Mr Kenny’s response to Mr Deasy was personalised and verged on being inappropriate. The deputy said it was reminiscent of the dressing down he gave former TD Olwyn Enright at the first meeting after the party leadership contest in June 2010.

Mr Deasy responded by claiming that Mr Kenny had “ran away” from the debate.

The meeting was the first held by Fine Gael since the referendum to abolish the Seanad was defeated by a narrow margin in last wee’s referendum.

In his opening address to the meeting, Mr Kenny made only passing reference to the referendum, focusing instead on next week’s Budget and other challenges facing the party.

The party’s leader in the Seanad, Maurice Cummins, was the only senator to speak and addressed the meeting on behalf of his colleagues in the Upper House.

In his speech he referred to the disappointment of senators at things that had been said in the course of the referendum campaign, especially the hurtful and disparaging things that had been said by the Fine Gael campaign about the party’s senators, their work and their contribution to the Oireachtas.

It appeared that the meeting would come to an end at that point but regular contributor Bernard Durkan, a TD for Kildare North, then spoke at length.

Mr Deasy then rose to speak and criticised the Fine Gael campaign, saying the whole idea was badly conceived, was a pet project for the Taoiseach and the party had conducted a disgraceful campaign.

He said that last Saturday had been a bad day for the party.

In his response, Mr Kenny said that Mr Deasy had attended none of the referendum campaign meetings organised by Fine Gael for its TDs and Senators in Dublin and had also not attended any of the public meetings in Waterford.

He said the Waterford TD was not in a position to speak or criticise because he had not been involved in the campaign and had played no part in it.

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