Enda keeps keen eye on the party's new jittery high-babies


THE REFERENDUM is over and it’s back to reality now for the new flowers trembling on the lower slopes of the Fine Gael backbenches.

Some of them have formed a group and are meeting regularly to discuss policy and party issues.

It’s been a steep learning curve for the class of 2011. Coping with a vicious change of mood among the electorate has been bad enough, but the internal politics that goes on within the parliamentary party has been an eye-opener.

They have ideas and views to contribute and criticisms to make, but are finding it difficult to get a hearing.

“We don’t identify with either of the two camps in the party before the election – those who supported Enda in the heave and those who didn’t,” said one of these new TDs. “We’re like a third grouping and we’ve no interest in being claimed by either side.” (The tensions after the failed heave against Enda haven’t entirely gone away, it seems.) A group of them – all male – have formed “The Five-a-Side Club”. They meet discreetly on a regular basis for dinner, usually on a Wednesday night in a basement restaurant near Leinster House. The core group is 10 in number and includes deputies Paul Connaughton, Martin Heydon, Brendan Griffin, Eoghan Murphy, Sean Kyne and Anthony Lawlor.

While they may be unhappy with the slow pace of some of the Government’s reform policies, they are at pains to emphasise they are not plotting against the leadership.

The boys recently fell victim to a mole in the camp. One group member was scuttling back to the mother ship with news of all their meetings.

In recent weeks, word went around the party of a meeting between Eoghan Murphy and the Taoiseach. Apparently after a routine discussion, Enda suddenly turned to the Dublin South-East TD and declared: “I know all about your gang of 10.” Young Murphy was reportedly gobsmacked.

Enda said he wouldn’t tolerate factions within his parliamentary party and that he had his eye on them.

He further spooked the group when he bumped into a few of them at Punchestown races. “We’ll have no five-a-side here,” he remarked, signalling he is aware of their extra-mural activities.

“He knows they aren’t plotting. He was just playing a guard to their knave,” a FG veteran – clearly a card player – tells us. “It’s a blocking move, just in case.” Once bitten, twice shy, perhaps, for the vigilant Taoiseach.

On Wednesday night, he met his backbenchers at a special get-together in O’Donoghue’s pub. It was an informal evening and Enda worked the room, schmoozing his jittery high-babies with good humour and lots of his time.

And keeping a special eye on the innocent and earnest Five-a-Side Club, no doubt. All they want is attention.

Is our Taoiseach succumbing to a touch of paranoia? The lads will continue to meet, although the atmosphere might be strained if a certain deputy shows up.

“We know who the snitch is. He sold us down the river.”