Enda Kenny has the support of the “vast majority” of Galway Fine Gaelers as party grassroots in the county want to see him continue as leader and become the first west of Ireland Taoiseach.
However Mr Kenny’s chances hang on a knife edge as Galway FG TDs predict that the outcome of today’s confidence motion in his leadership,will be very close.
At 11.30am the Fine Gael parliamentary party will vote on the motion, put forward by Mr Kenny, following the withdrawal of support for him by Richard Bruton and nine members of the party’s front bench.
By 1pm we will know if Mr Kenny has survived. If he fails to get majority support a leadership contest will then ensue.
Gawlay East TD Ulick Burke and Sen Fidelma Healy Eames have not publicly declared who they will vote for tomorrow. Galway West TD Pádraic McCormack cannot declare as he is required to be impartial in his position as parliamentary party chairperson.
However Galway East Paul Connaughton has stated publically that he is backing Mr Kenny. He describes My Kenny as a great “team builder” who has rejuvenated the party over the last 10 years and made it a contender for government.
“I think back to 2002 when the party was almost wiped out, Enda took over as leader and brought us back,” he told the Galway Advertiser. “He put in place a robust organisation that has had several election successes including last year’s local elections which saw us become the biggest party in the State with the number of councillors elected to the local authorities.”
According to the Galway Fine Gael TDs and senators, there is overwhelming support for Enda Kenny among ordinary party members throughout Co Galway, and a desire to see him retain his post as party leader.
“The majority are for Enda Kenny,” said Dep Connaughton. “They support him as a fellow west of Ireland man and they would love to see a west of Ireland Taoiseach.”
Sen Healy Eames agrees: “There is extremely strong support for Enda Kenny. Perhaps those outside the party might prefer Richard Bruton more, but in Galway, FG members want Kenny.”
Although today’s vote is one of confidence or not in Mr Kenny’s leadership, it ultimatly implies the question ‘Do you want Kenny or Bruton for leader?’ Sen Healy Eames said the choice will be difficult for many given that Kenny and Bruton appeared to be a good double act as leader and deputy leader.
“It will be like choosing between your mother and your father,” she said. “Both have been very receptive to me. Richard spoke at a meeting I organised and Enda opened my constituency office.”
While Mr Kenny is popular among Galway FG grassroots, it is the party TDs and senators, not the ordinary members, who will decide his fate. The Galway TDs agree the outcome of today’s vote will be very difficult to call.
“I think it will be very, very, close,” said Dep Ulick Burke. “I think it could come down to there just being three or four votes in it.”
Dep Connaughton: “It is impossible to call as there are so many imponderables, but at the moment it looks as if Enda Kenny will win. The question is, by how much.”
Many within Fine Gael feel that internal divisions erupting in public, especially in advance of this week’s vote of no confidence in Taoiseach Brian Cowen, looks bad and will be a setback for the party.
“The vast majority of Galway Fine Gael members feel that the timing could not be worse,” said Dep Connaughton. “We have to get the focus back on getting Fianna Fáil out of government.”
“The public will ask ‘What are you up to?’ and this will be damaging for us,” said Dep Burke. “After this is over it will take time for things to repair and to prove to the public that there is an alternative to Fianna Fáil.”