Kenny hails democratic revolution at ballot box


REACTION:FINE GAEL’S success in the general election was described by party leader, and taoiseach-elect, Enda Kenny as historic and a “democratic revolution”.

In his first formal reaction following the poll, Mr Kenny said the results of the election, which would leave his party within six seats of an overall majority, was a phenomenal result for the party, and would leave it with a strong mandate.

“This was a democratic revolution at the ballot box. The message is for a stable and strong government. The chasm opened between people and government has to be rebuilt,” he said on RTÉ television.

Mr Kenny said that on the basis of the results, it looked likely that he would be elected taoiseach in the 31st Dáil when it reconvenes on March 9th.

Asked for his reaction to his party’s strong showing, he said: “I was surprised. People who did not vote for our party previously, and who liked our programme and our plan, voted for us.

“In 2002, we had three TDs in Dublin and [it was] a political wasteland. To get to this point takes belief, conviction and hard work.”

On appointing a new cabinet, Mr Kenny said the question of disappointing some loyal party members in a coalition arrangement did not concern him unduly.

“It’s not about individuals. I am honoured to put together a team. It is not based on individuals. This is about our people and our country. The Government, Big G, has to respond to it,” he said.

Frontbench spokesman Leo Varadkar described the result as a brilliant endorsement. “Six weeks ago, if somebody had said we would get 36 per cent of the vote and 76 seats, I would have taken it,” he said.

“The possibility of an overall majority came very late in the day. It was never really on. Nobody has got overall majority since before I was born.”

Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael had broken the mould in Irish politics. “What Enda Kenny has achieved, John Bruton, Garret FitzGerald, Liam Cosgrave and John A Costello could not achieve.

“It’s a historic result, but there is no sense of triumphalism.”

Mr Varadkar’s colleague on the front bench Simon Coveney said the result had been a fantastic story for Fine Gael.

“People need to judge Enda Kenny on his achievements,” he said. “We will see a decisive period over the next three or four days and that’s a good thing because the country no longer needs more indecisive dithering.”

Fine Gael, with almost twice as many seats as Labour, will expect at least nine seats in Cabinet, including control of the key finance portfolio.

In the previous coalition involving the two parties and Democratic Left, Labour’s Ruairí Quinn was minister for finance. However, in a comparatively stronger position now Fine Gael might demand that portfolio.

A senior source with the party, who is expected to play a part in negotiations, said the quid pro quo that may be offered to Labour is an extra seat at Cabinet.

That position may be complicated somewhat by Fine Gael’s proposal to split up the finance portfolio, to accommodate a minister with responsibility for public sector reform.

The party’s policies in this area differ greatly from Labour’s and it would be expected Fine Gael would want this role. Whether the party will be able to hold both ministries in the reformed Department of Finance will be a subject for negotiation.

According to several senior members of the party, the front-runners for senior cabinet positions are deputy leader James Reilly; finance spokesman Michael Noonan; environment spokesman Phil Hogan; communications spokesman Leo Varadkar; transport spokesman Simon Coveney; enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton; education spokesman Fergus O’Dowd and justice spokesman Alan Shatter.

At least one senior minister is expected to be a woman and incoming TD for Dublin West Frances Fitzgerald is the favourite.

On the Labour Party side, some of the likely contenders are deputy leader Joan Burton, justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte, education spokesman Ruairí Quinn; social protection spokeswoman Róisín Shortall; agriculture spokesman Seán Sherlock and health spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan.