Simon Coveney says motion of no confidence in Kenny would fail

Flanagan says message he sent to WhatsApp group on Harris was ‘jovial Sunday banter’

‘I am certainly not going to support anybody who suggests that we should be forcing the issue,’ Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said.   Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

‘I am certainly not going to support anybody who suggests that we should be forcing the issue,’ Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has said a motion of no confidence in Taoiseach Enda Kenny would fail if it were put before the party.

“I really hope that there isn’t a motion of no confidence . If there is, it will only be supported by a very small group in the party

“ I think the vast majority of people in the parliamentary party now want to give the Taoiseach the time and space to manage a transition within the party, ” he said on Monday.

Mr Coveney said that there were some within the party showing “a lot of impatience” and were issuing ultimatums to Mr Kenny but he did not believe that was the correct way to proceed.

Mr Kenny will break his silence on his future as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader at a crucial party meeting on Wednesday in the knowledge that the prospect of an immediate challenge to his leadership has receded. Mr Coveney, one of the main leadership contenders, said most people in the party were comfortable with that.

“I would be hopeful that we are not going to face any more ultimatums or threats coming from a small minority within the party which I don’t think is helpful.”

“ I am not going to start laying down timetables or conditions and I am certainly not going to support anybody who suggests that we should be forcing the issue .”

“I have said the Taoiseach should go to Washington for St Patrick’s Day ...... I expect that after that we will see a process in place that will manage and orderly transition.”

Mr Coveney said he hoped that Fine Gael vice chairman, Pat Deering TD would not proceed with tabling a motion of no confidence in Mr Kenny.

“And I expect that message will be very clear by the time that parliamentary party meets on Wednesday so I hope it doesn’t happen and I don’t think it was the right thing to do to lay down ultimatums to a party leader that has been in place for 15 years and Taoiseach for the last six years.”

Timeline

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said he expected Mr Kenny to outline a timeline for his departure on Wednesday night.

Mr Noonan said he would not speculate on what the Taoiseach would do before that point.

Asked who would he would back in the leadership contest Mr Noonan said he expected more contenders to enter the race.

The Minister said: “There is only two declared candidates, I am assuming there will be others.

“I wait to see the full field before I decide who to back.”

Banter

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said a social media message he sent to a private Fine Gael group on the party leadership was “banter”.

In a leaked Fine Gael WhatsApp group message at the weekend, Mr Flanagan suggested that Minister for Health Simon Harris “wants out of health” and that the Tánaiste is encouraging him to run for the leadership.

Mr Flanagan described the Whatsapp message - as “jovial Sunday afternoon banter”. “I regret it’s being taken so seriously,” he said.

Mr Flanagan made the brief comments as he arrived at the Department of Foreign Affairs on St Stephen’s Green on Monday.

Mr Flanagan, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Education Richard Bruton are holding hold bilateral talks with the United Arab Emirates foreign minister HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“It was a joke that should be taken as that,” Mr Flanagan said.

Mr Harris is not ruling out a bid to become leader .“If and when a vacancy arises I will consider my position at that stage.

“Mr Harris said today that Charlie Flanagan has many attributes, but that making jokes is not one of them.

Mr Harris said that the Taoiseach had ‘huge’ experience with European matters and that should be harnessed in Brexit negotiations.

Ms Fitzgerald also said he would make her position known on the leadership after Mr Kenny makes a statement on his own intentions on Wednesday.

“The Taoiseach has said he will be speaking to the parliamentary party on Wednesday. It’s very important that we wait and hear what the Taoiseach has to say. When he has made that clear I will be considering my own position.

“Let’s wait and hear what he has to say on Wednesday evening. He said he is going to be speaking to the parliamentary party. He is not making a comment before then, so I think we all look forward with interest to what he has to say on Wednesday.”

Avoid messiness

Meanwhile former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes said he would like to hear the Taoiseach “say that he will stand down at a given time”.

On Monday Mr Dukes urged the party to have an orderly leadership transition “to avoid messiness”.

He added that personally he felt very sorry for Enda Kenny that he now found himself in this position.

“Up to now the process has been extremely untidy.”

He welcomed news that Mr Kenny will clarify his plans to the parliamentary party on Wednesday.

“Inevitably there will be a change of leader, the question is how it will be done,” he told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

He said that a visit to Washington on St Patrick’s day would be a nice conclusion for Mr Kenny’s time as Taoiseach. “An outgoing Taoiseach could be much more direct.”

Break silence

Mr Kenny will break his silence on his future as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader at a crucial party meeting on Wednesday in the knowledge that the prospect of an immediate challenge to his leadership has receded.

In a short statement on Sunday Mr Kenny confirmed he will address the issue at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting. He said he would make no other comment on the issue until then.

Mr Kenny has only once referred to his own future since his admission that a conversation he said he held with Katherine Zappone over false sexual allegations made against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe had not taken place.

Undignified departure

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness does not want to see a ‘hasty or undignified departure’ by Mr Kenny.

As leader of the Fine Gael party and the country he deserves respect, she told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

Ms McGuinness called for a greater focus on Brexit negotiations and said that the Taoiseach is well regarded and ‘listened to’ in Europe where “he has been at the Council of Europe table for years.”

On the same programme Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Housing Barry Cowen said that Fine Gael needs to sort out the leadership issue ‘fast.’

“It is imperative that it is dealt with on Wednesday and that the country knows where it stands.”