Analysis: Fear and loathing in Fine Gael?

Many party members embarrassed about promises of ‘a new way of doing politics’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will need to put in a sure-footed performance in the Dáil tomorrow, and at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday, to settle frazzled nerves. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will need to put in a sure-footed performance in the Dáil tomorrow, and at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday, to settle frazzled nerves. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The Seanad ballot papers have been distributed to TDs and Senators ahead of the byelection next week to fill the vacancy created by the elevation of Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune to the European Parliament.

John McNulty, the Donegal businessman at the centre of the story, continues to be described as an Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) board member on the páipéar ballóide. The papers were drawn up last Monday, ahead of his stepping down from the board on Thursday.

Given the numbers in the Oireachtas, the senior partner in the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition was always going to “win” this contest, if it can be described as such.

This is what makes the Government’s handling of the controversy all the more bewildering. “A ridiculous own goal,” was one observer’s opinion today.

A secret postal ballot will be held, with only members of the Dáil and Seanad eligible to vote. The Government has lost votes in the Seanad, but its majority in the lower house is secure and so - barring a hiccup - it seems certain Mr McNulty will be a Senator very soon.

Tánaiste Joan Burton says she anticipates Labour TDs and Senators will back Mr McNulty in the secret ballot.

A number of party TDs have expressed discomfort at how things have panned out. Ciara Conway, Dominic Hannigan and Michael McNamara (as it happens, three of the seven first-time TDs who put down a motion of no confidence in Eamon Gilmore as Labour leader) have raised the prospect of not supporting Mr McNulty.

On the Fine Gael side of the house, backbenchers John Deasy from Waterford and Sean Conlon from Monaghan have gone public with their exasperation about Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Arts and Heritage Heather Humphreys.

Other Fine Gael figures, and not the usual disgruntled or demoted suspects, are also quietly angry with how the process has been handled. Fine Gael deputies are not particularly exercised about either Imma or the Seanad - the party advocated abolishing the Upper House, after all.

They have no problem with Mr McNulty. In fact, many feel sorry for him and they way he has been caught up in this political storm.

But they are embarrassed about the promises about “democratic revolutions” and “a new way of doing politics” that were tossed about before the General Election.

Some fear speaking out because they believe they are already on a list of “ones to watch” as “potential troublemakers”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, now operating without strict enforcers and fierce supporters such as Phil Hogan, Frank Flannery and Alan Shatter, will need to put in a sure-footed performance in the Dáil tomorrow, and at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday, to settle frazzled nerves.

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