Kenny calls for discretion at party meeting

 

MEDIA COVERAGE of Fine Gael and its performance in the polls were key issues at a 90-minute meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party held behind closed doors at Leinster House last night.

Sources at the meeting said party leader Enda Kenny was highly critical of some recent Sunday newspaper coverage that suggested his position was under threat. He stressed the need for party confidentiality.

Mr Kenny issued what sources described as a “rallying call” urging his colleagues to put their shoulders to the wheel to bring down the Coalition.

There were approximately 20 speakers and a paper on economic issues by finance spokesman Michael Noonan had to be deferred until the next parliamentary party meeting.

There was a strong emphasis on confidentiality and a senior party source said the members were told that the room had been “scanned” for bugging devices before the meeting.

The party’s new political director, Mark Mortell, gave a 10-minute speech towards the end of the meeting where he urged that the “extraordinary passion” in the room should be directed into the performances of TDs and Senators in the media and the Oireachtas.

Senator Eugene Regan urged that the information derived from focus groups should be shared with the parliamentary party in general rather than being confined to the leadership. According to sources, he said the latest polls would be devastating if they were reflected at the ballot box.

Senator Paschal Donohoe said he had come to the meeting to find out the party’s message on the economy but the whole time had been spent talking in silly and demoralising terms about the media.

Sources said retiring Deputy Olwyn Enright challenged colleagues who were blaming the media for the party’s misfortunes and she argued that the problem was a failure to communicate a message that would win support.

Frontbencher Simon Coveney said he thought the whole leadership issue had been been settled by democratic decision and he urged members to get on with their work of opposing the Government.

Mayo TD John O’Mahony stressed the need for confidentiality in the parliamentary party and the need for unity, adding that the leadership had a responsibility to heal and unite the party which was clearly divided.

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames complained about leaks from party meetings. Deputy Bernard Durkan said all the media wanted was a scalp and to make a story out of it.

Dublin South-East Deputy Lucinda Creighton said the reality of the polls and the perilous condition of the party in Dublin had to be faced.

There was some criticism at the meeting of the fact that comprehensive details of the critical discussion on the leadership issue last June were leaked to The Irish Times.