Enda Kenny rules out Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil merger
Taoiseach also says there will be no reshuffle of Ministers or a general election in 2017
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said voters will not be going back to the polls in 2017. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ruled out the possibility of any amalgamation between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil in future.
In a categorical dismissal of the prospect, Mr Kenny said he did not see it happening.
The call for both parties to coalesce has long been a theme of left-leaning political opponents of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Asked about the prospect in the context of ongoing centenary commemorations, Mr Kenny said: “I don’t see a coming together of the Fine Gael party and the Fianna Fáil party if you like as a combined unit, but I do see an opportunity to have another reflection [which shows] a mature regime and a mature people moving on to the next century.”
The Taoiseach was speaking in the course of an end-of-year interview in Government Buildings where he also disclosed there would be no reshuffle of Cabinet Ministers or Ministers of State during 2017.
Mr Kenny was asked about a possible coalescing with Fianna Fáil by the time the Civil War centenary commemorations begin in the early 2020s.
The two centrist parties – which have dominated Irish politics since the foundation of the State – separately emerged out of the split that beset Irish republicanism during the Civil War of the 1920s.
Reflect more maturely
While dismissing a reversal of the split, the Taoiseach said the commemoration would provide opportunities for both parties to reflect more maturely on those historic events.
“Now we do approach in the decade of the centenaries, the War of Independence and the Civil War, I think at this point we now have ample opportunity to look at how we might deal with all of that raw period in a mature and reflective way.
“I hope that we now have time to do that and do it in a really sensitive and fitting manner as a commemorative event 100 years on for all of those who died.”
Asked about a reshuffle, Mr Kenny said it would not happen in 2017.
Under a “rotation” agreement reached between Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Seán Canney will step down in May, a year after being appointed.
He will be replaced by his Independent Alliance colleague Kevin “Boxer” Moran.
When asked if he would use that rotation in May as a platform for a wider reshuffle, Mr Kenny said: “There certainly won’t be any reshuffle in 2016 and I’m not giving consideration to it in May either.”
He also confirmed he does not envisage an election for the foreseeable future.
“We have a three-year Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Fianna Fáil party, with a review at the end of 2018.
“We have 600 tasks in the Programme for Government and we are getting on with that business, and the last thing on my mind is the thought of a general election. We are far too busy, working in the interests of the people to contemplate that.”
Asked if he would accept Minister for Communications Denis Naughten back into Fine Gael, Mr Kenny said that was entirely a matter for the now Independent TD.
Mr Naughten resigned from Fine Gael in 2011 after he accused Mr Kenny of reneging on a commitment to Roscommon County Hospital.
There was a fraught relationship between both politicians for a long period afterwards but it has improved in the past year, especially since Mr Naughten became a full Minister.
On the question of a return for Mr Naughten, he said: “I’m sure that’s something that’s entirely a matter for him.
“He sits as an Independent at the Cabinet table. I’m very happy with his performance. He’s doing well . . .
“Far be it for me to try to say to anybody this is what you should do with your political career. Denis is a senior Minister at Cabinet, working very hard and doing a great job.”