Clock is ticking on Enda Kenny’s leadership

Inside Politics: This is the Taoiseach’s worst week since taking office for the second time

Can you hear it?

The clock is ticking on Enda Kenny’s leadership. Everyone knows it.

The Taoiseach insists he will serve a full term. This is not true, and everyone knows it is not true. But everyone knows why the Taoiseach has to say it; to say anything else declares open season.

Equally, the Taoiseach knows that everyone knows it is not true, but he also knows that they understand why he has to say it. Clear?


The question is not really whether the clock is ticking but where the hands of the clock are. In other words, how long has it left to tick?

That is unlikely to be a fixed period. When Mr Kenny does go, it will not be because he has reached some circled date on the calendar; rather it will be in response to circumstances and events, to a context that demands it.

This is just the way it happens. Can you think of a recent taoiseach – or a British prime minister – for whom it was different? Events will create that context, and events in recent days have been distinctly disadvantageous to the Taoiseach.

One of the great failures of political punditry is a lack of perspective; there can’t be a crisis every week. But some weeks there is one.

This is not a crisis for the Taoiseach yet, but it is the worst week he has had to endure since he took office for the second time. And this morning's Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll has just made it a lot worse.

The assessment of Kenny's leadership of our country is for another day. A more pressing question is whether today's poll prompts an outbreak of the heebie-jeebies in Fine Gael – or how bad the outbreak is. Signs are it is pretty bad.

As Fiach Kelly reports in technicolour detail today, yesterday evening's meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party was a rambunctious affair, with several TDs speaking up in criticism of the leadership.

The Examiner also has a good report.

Partly this is in response to the week's adverse events for Fine Gael – the rebuff from Arlene Foster on the proposed All-Ireland Brexit forum, the caving in to the Independent Alliance on abortion, Joe O'Toole's resignation.

Partly it was because of the very strange reappointment of James Reilly as deputy leader, sprung on amazed TDs last night.

But also it was because Kenny’s power over his parliamentary party is greatly diminished. It has no reason to fear him now.

The boys are back in town

So what does the poll show anyway?

Stephen Collins's page one story detailing the headline findings is here.

My own, poking-through-the-entrails, analysisis here, while Damien Loscher from Ipsos MRBI says the move away from Independents reflects post-Brexit nervousness from centrist voters.

There will be detailed charts and other jiggery-pokery on during the day, allowing you to look at the breakdowns by region, demographic group, party affiliation, etc. Other data from the poll will be reported over the coming days.

But for now, the main findings are:

Fianna Fáil has seen a whopping nine-point jump in support since the general election, easily passing out Fine Gael and recovering to a level of support not seen since before the financial crisis struck in 2008. In other words, the boys are back in town.

Fine Gael falls back by two points since the election, within the margin of error but hardly comforting. Labour also falls by 2 per cent. The party remains on life-support.

Sinn Féin is up two points since February.

Independents and others tumble by eight points since the election, though as ever their support is dissipated among many small groups, most of which register support within the margin of error.

And Ireland is more pro-EU than it was before the Brexit referendum.