All is not well within Fine Gael, despite the protestations of the Enda Kenny wing of the party.
Describing a leader as fronting a faction within his own party is a little odd, but given the rumoured breakdown of the recent FG leadership vote, it’s hardly an unwarranted description.
With the sitting government among the most unpopular in this State’s history, led by a Taoiseach who maligns paranoia while unwittingly reeking of it, Fine Gael embarked on a political speed wobble.
Quite what forces led Richard Bruton to take leave of his senses given the timing of his leadership challenge will surely be subject to one of those navel gazing documentaries RTE is rather good at.
But Enda’s not registering with the voters, Enda’s got a charisma deficit, Enda can’t land the sucker punch in Dáil debates even when his opponent is politically wheezing and has mislaid his inhaler.
The aforementioned criticisms of Deputy Kenny have been made time and time again, particularly around opinion poll publication time.
Now it’s no secret that Deputy John Deasy isn’t a huge Enda Kenny fan, but it’s worth pointing out that he didn’t sing from the rooftops regarding Richard Bruton’s credentials during the recent heave.
That Deputy Deasy chose Young Fine Gael’s Summer School in Tramore to assert that the party was “completely split” in the wake of the leadership contest didn’t go down well with the event’s organisers.
Referring to an “ugly and nasty” atmosphere within the party following Enda Kenny’s victory, Deputy Deasy was quickly rounded on by Kenny supporters, including Waterford City Councillor John Cummins.
It’s believed that Deputy Deasy was stung by Cllr Cummins’s rebuke in our July 16th edition, in which the Council’s youngest member stated: “To be honest, I think it was a disgrace what he said…
“The reality is that (Deputy Deasy) hasn’t a hope in hell of getting a ministerial position – the dogs in the street can recognise that.
“He can see that Fine Gael in the city is strengthening and (that) the support for Paudie Coffey here is rising, and that because Paudie is held in high regard by Enda Kenny he would be in line for a junior ministry when he’s elected.”
Cllr Cummins contended that John Deasy “should make way, for there are many fine people in Fine Gael who would happily take his place”.
That no other prominent Fine Gael member in either the city or county has publicly sided with Deputy Deasy on his stance has left him an increasingly isolated figure locally.
And for a frank and outspoken man, it was surprising to learn that Deputy Deasy apparently chose not to speak during the parliamentary party meeting which determined Fine Gael’s immediate future.
But consider this: John Deasy is one of the few Oireachtas members who can’t be accused of being power hungry or playing politics.
That infamous cigarette in the Dáil bar cost him his front bench position and, as long as Mr Kenny remains leader, he’s denied himself a realistic shot at holding either a senior or junior ministerial brief.
More often that not, he calls things as he sees them, rather than relying on a feed from a party advisor regarding what he should say, how he should say it and to whom he should say it to.
So let’s examine what Deputy Deasy said in Tramore. “People are trying to portray Fine Gael as unified after the heave but that’s not the case,” he said. “If you want to mend something, you have to be honest about the situation.”
That reads like a reasonable point, all the more so having learned that some FG Senators were quite tetchy about seating arrangements at their end of term meal held at Dublin’s Stephen’s Green Club.
“I think people just gravitated towards who they were comfortable with and there are two groups at the moment,” one Senator told The Sunday Business Post on July 18th.
“This is all a symptom of an air of coolness that exists at present. The question is whether you can get Humpty Dumpty back together again.”
Deasy: “There’s a deep split within the party (and) the divisions within Fine Gael right now, in my opinion, are beyond repair if the situation continues. I still think it’s correctable (but) people need to be honest about the problems that exist – you can’t continue to avoid the real issue.”
If, as has been suggested elsewhere, Mr Kenny defeated Mr Bruton by 38 votes to 32, such a winning margin hardly constitutes to a ringing endorsement of the incumbent’s leadership.
Yes, Deputy Kenny won fairly and democracy justly prevailed, but at what long-term cost to the party within the context of the next general election? So there’s clearly an unhealthy split in Fine Gael which, one suggests, isn’t going to simply dissolve into nothingness.
Deasy: “There’s a schism, it’s very deep. We still have to address the core issue for us as a political party – we haven’t attracted a great deal of support since the last election, at a time when the Government is deeply unpopular.”
Fine Gael’s support, if the polls are to be believed, has not increased at a rate it ought to have since 2007, with Labour leader Eamonn Gilmore’s soaring rhetoric surely a contributing factor.
And, despite all that is said and written about him, Fine Gael’s failure to garner additional public appeal isn’t something that can be pinned on its outspoken Teachta Dála from Waterford.