As expected FG leader Enda Kenny won the confidence vote in his leadership yesterday (Thursday) having dismissed his entire shadow cabinet last Monday after losing the support of most of his front bench in a failed leadership heave. It is generally believed that the margin was about six votes.
Mr Kenny would be well advised to tread carefully. He must ignore the urgings of those who urge a large-scale purge of dissidents. However he must freshen up his team. Several members of the outgoing front bench have ruled out the possibility of serving under Mr Kenny again. No doubt this was said in the heat of battle. Some harsh exchanges occurred in the course of the last week. However there was no vicious infighting reminiscent of previous heaves. Indeed the dissidents have now pledged their full support. Consequently if Mr Kenny shows the required level of magnanimity towards the vanquished the party may actually emerge in a stronger position. His decision not to announce his new front bench next Monday is a hopeful sign as it indicates a determination to consult widely.
Naturally he will feel the need to reward those who stood by him in his fight to hold the leadership. However it must be pointed out that SOME of his closest supporters are not of ministerial calibre. To appoint these to front bench positions would be an act of folly. If FG is to emerge as the largest party the best talent must sit on the front bench.
Former Finance spokesman Richard Bruton has expressed an unwillingness to sit on the front bench. His loss is incalculable. Mr Kenny must offer an olive branch to Mr Bruton and hopefully convince him to return. If Mr Bruton is unwilling to return to the front bench perhaps Michael Noonan could be offered the position of Spokesman on Finance. Noonan is a heavy hitter and would be more than a match for Brian Lenihan. Hopefully Simon Coveney, Brian Hayes and Leo Varadkar at least will be offered front bench positions. Mr Kenny should bring in Deirdre Clune and Lucinda Creighton. It is time for Creighton and Kenny to mend fences. Kieran O’Donnell a trained accountant, Dr James Reilly, Phil Hogan, Jimmy Deenihan and Michael Ring are others who will probably sit on the front bench. David Stanton is underrated and deserves a front bench position. It will be particularly interesting to see if John Deasy makes a return. Others to figure may include Olwyn Enright, Catherine Byrne, Shane McEntee, Damien English,Terence Flanagan and John Perry.
Finally Enda Kenny should take on board some of the criticisms from the dissidents and strengthen his grasp of economics. Unless he can convince the electorate on this score he is fighting an uphill battle. He has less than two years to improve his profile among the voters. On a positive note the FG party has an impressive array of policy documents. It is far superior to the Labour Party or FF on this score. Unfortunately the electorate is largely ignorant of this.