FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny told his parliamentary party yesterday that heated exchanges at last week’s meeting, during which he used strong language, was part of no more than a minor run-of-the-mill dispute.
At the start of the weekly meeting of the party, Mr Kenny addressed TDs and Senators about last week’s exchanges with Dublin South East TD Lucinda Creighton that prompted a walkout from her and a further verbal altercation with Galway East TD Ulick Burke.
In what several TDs described as a “clear the air” speech, Mr Kenny said he wanted to draw a line under the incident.
One deputy, who wished not to be named, said Mr Kenny inferred media coverage had blown the exchanges out of all proportion.
“He [Mr Kenny] said that what would be regarded as normal exchanges in a Fianna Fáil meeting were portrayed as a coup d’etat taking place,” said the deputy.
Both Ms Creighton and Mr Burke spoke and clarified they were happy to move on, according to TDs who were at the meeting.
Another TD who was at yesterday’s meeting said he had witnessed tougher stuff said at GAA club meetings, and that the verbal exchanges were no more than a “storm in a teacup”.
Several TDs also said there was no suggestion of any doubt about Mr Kenny’s leadership.
“It doesn’t arise. There is no evidence that Enda Kenny’s leadership is in question, none at all,” said one backbench TD.
Also yesterday evening, Taoiseach Brian Cowen made a 10-minute address to TDs and Senators at the end of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting.
Mr Cowen reiterated some of the points he made during the briefing to political correspondents on Sunday afternoon.
The Government chief whip, Pat Carey, said Mr Cowen reminded his colleagues that the Government was taking very difficult decisions, and urged TDs and Senators to bear the future of the country in mind when the tough budgetary measures are announced.
The meeting also debated a number of motions brought by backbenchers.
These included one tabled by Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath calling for National Lottery sports grant to be distributed to smaller clubs and for smaller projects.
Lottery grants have tended to go to bigger projects in recent years. Mr McGrath argued that smaller grants gave more value-for-money and were more beneficial to rural communities.
There is uncertainty over whether the Government will agree to a new round of lottery grants for sports in the present economic circumstances.
There was a view expressed by the party leadership at the meeting that it does not want to be seen to be buying votes in what is expected to be a harsh budget.