The role of the Government chief whip has always been to protect the party leader. Their unofficial yet primary function is to collect information and to discreetly transmit it.
All criticism is reported to the leader before it happens and the consequences of such moves fully translated to those set to carry out the acts of treachery.
Those appointed to the role require a blend of charm and flattery, and yet the ability to frighten and threaten.
For Taoiseach Enda Kenny his new Chief Whip possesses all of the above qualities, but unfortunately for Kenny it is he who should feel under threat. Regina Doherty’s intervention in the leadership debate to some may seem insignificant. To those of us watching the dance closely it is anything but.
Confusion vs clarity
Yesterday she told LMFM radio that until Kenny clarifies the process for stepping aside, there would be confusion. The
TD said nothing some of her colleagues have not said publicly already. But Doherty is not a backbench TD anymore. Her role as Chief Whip allows her a seat at the Cabinet table and lends her the ear of the Taoiseach.
It is a position Kenny has never found himself in before. Former chief whip Paul Kehoe was completely loyal . Doherty, on the other hand, is known to have a tense relationship with the Taoiseach.
It is believed to be born out of Kenny’s decision to appoint her former constituency colleague Shane McEntee a junior minister in 2011. Even when Kenny announced the reshuffle in 2014, she never got the call.
Despite her strong media performances, her ability and her political acuteness, she has often been overlooked by the party leadership. Many had expected Doherty to be appointed a senior Minister this time around but instead she had to settle for the position of Chief Whip, which in a minority Government is anything but ideal.
Kenny’s persistent overlooking of Doherty has come back to haunt him. Her comments on LMFM could be the catalyst to her leader’s departure. They also came as the Dáil failed to reach a quorum and was delayed for 30 minutes while 20 TDs were assembled.
Also on RTÉ's Prime Time on Thursday night she described the decision to allow the Independent Alliance a free vote on an unconstitutional Bill as "bananas". Doherty is said to be close to leadership contender Leo Varadkar. Conspiracy theorists are suggesting Varadkar nudged her in this direction. Unlikely, but yet entirely possible.
One of her Cabinet colleagues insisted Doherty had done or said nothing inaccurate, but claimed her timing was inappropriate.
“You would question whether she wanted to be leader herself. It was foolish but she was absolutely right in what she said.”
Another of her colleagues said it was naivety on her part rather than a cunning plot to remove Kenny. Whatever her intentions, the Chief Whip has caused a stir for the leader she is supposed to protect.