Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell to be grilled over Kenny critique

Party activists in Dublin Bay South constituency unimpressed by ‘meandering rhetoric’

A Fine Gael TD is be questioned by her local constituency organisation about her "meandering rhetoric" in urging Ministers who wish to succeed Enda Kenny to stand up and question the Taoiseach's leadership.

Dublin Bay South TD Kate O’Connell this week said those who aspire to the leadership of the party must question the Taoiseach’s position.

She made her comments in light of preparations for the formal talks on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, which are due to begin by the end of March.

She said Mr Kenny may not best person to lead Ireland in the Brexit talks.

Cllr Paddy McCartan, who represents the Pembroke-South Dock area – part of Ms O'Connell's Dáil constituency – on Dublin City Council said local Fine Gael activists objected to her comments.

Mr McCartan said he had “spoken to a fair few” active party members in Dublin Bay South and believed he had a “broad base” of opinion. Nobody he had spoken to supported Ms O’Connell’s position.

He also claimed that her statement could be put down to inexperience as a first-time Dáil deputy.

“What exactly is she saying?” he asked. “One hundred per cent of people I have spoken to believe Enda Kenny is the right man to lead the negotiations.”

The councillor said questioning Mr Kenny’s leadership, with opinion polls showing his approval rating increasing, would give “grist to the mill” of Fine Gael’s political opponents.

Party anger

He said the matter would be raised at the next meeting of the Dublin Bay South constituency executive.

Ms O’Connell this week said “it is important that we send the future over rather than the past” to Brexit negotiations, adding that the party should not “blindly accept because of Enda Kenny’s experience that he is the best man for the job”.

Mr McCartan said Mr Kenny should lead Fine Gael for "at least" the three budgets set out in the confidence and supply deal agreed with Fianna Fáil.

"I don't often go into Leinster House, but I am often struck by how much of a bubble it seems to be," he said in reference to Ms O'Connell's comments.

Ms O'Connell was first elected to the Dáil last year after winning a high-profile constituency battle with then Renua leader and former Fine Gael minister Lucinda Creighton.

Mr McCartan previously objected to Ms Creighton’s opposition to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill when she was a Fine Gael minister of state in 2013.

He said that was on a “different scale” to his objections to Ms O’Connell. And said he had always believed that Ms Creighton was using Fine Gael as a vehicle to then establish her own political party.