Kenny wins, but who’s happiest?

By Eoin O’Malley (17 June, 2010)

Enda Kenny won today’s confidence motion, it is said by a margin of six votes. So he will be relieved and Richard Bruton disappointed. But might the happiest people as a result of this be Brian Cowen and Eamon Gilmore? Cowen now faces an opposition leader shorn of his most talented TDs. Gilmore will be able to say he’s the real leader of the opposition. Kenny will no doubt get a bump in the polls as he displayed fighting qualities and tactical nous to save his position, but he hasn’t won the country over, just his party. Kenny will face constant questions about the fact that almost half his parliamentary party (arguably the better half) had no confidence in him. The problems that Kenny had won’t be solved by this. Kenny needs to reunite the party quickly, but how can he do this?

10 thoughts on “Kenny wins, but who’s happiest?

  1. Kenny will be Taoiseach – it’s now done deal.

    I think anyone with a brain knows whatever Enda’s faults, real or perceived, the answer to them was not Richard Bruton. Fine Gael has at least been spared the nightmare of ripping itself to shreds only to find in a few weeks people wondering why Richard makes jam or why he won’t come to their meetings or moaning he is elitist.

    Fine Gael’s problems stem from too long in opposition and a lack of self belief and confidence and a mortal fear of what people think of them. Get over it.

    Let’s also see how well Labour support holds up when those silly spolit middle class children are confrotned with the reality of Labour policies. Labour will do well to heed the example of those other mould breakers – the Lib Dems.

    Their poll ratings didn’t last very long when people were faced with actually casting a vote for them – saying you will in a phone or door poll is a different matter to actually ticking the box in a ballot booth.

    Also those who divide the party into urban and rural would do well to stop being so patronising, neither side is special so both sides need to be appealed to by a united team.

  2. Although half the parliamentary party may back Kenny, if we are to believe newspaper reports, he may not command the support of a majority of his TDs.
    The IT report today that 8 Senators and 4 MEPS backed Kenny. If he did get 38 votes, assuming he voted for himself, that means at the very most 25 TDs backed him, while at the very least 25 did not.
    Although the party is attempting to put on a united front, these figures suggest that this split may only be temporarily patched up, if that at all.
    Perhaps someone in the know has info on how the 7 undeclared voted?:
    James Bannon; Sen Fidelma Healy-Eames; Terence Flanagan; Pádraic McCormack; Noel Coonan; Seymour Crawford; Sen Paul Coghlan

  3. Sen Fidelma Healy Eames was prominent in the Enda Kenny donut after the result, as was Deirdre Clune who some had down as a fence sitter too. Terence Flanagan backed Kenny too I reckon, as someone who made great play of his close links with Richard Bruton in the run up to the 2007 election to have remained as quite as he has would indicate to me that he was back Kenny but didn’t want to let on.

  4. Desmond, not sure it can be said Fine Gael have ‘at least been spared the nightmare of ripping itself to shreds’ – surely Enda will have to remove the 10 rebels from his front bench thus losing his most experienced people, his best and brightest if you will.

    Plus now the whole of Ireland knows that roughly half his parliamentary party has no confidence in him. That’s pretty close to being ripped to shreds.

    • Who says half the parliamentry party were against Enda, who says they were in favour of Richard. It was a secret ballot and we don’t know the result.

      So why is it if Richard had won the media and commentators wouldn’t be asking to know how much he won by but when Enda wins they want to know how much he won by?

      With regard to those who opposed Enda being the party’s ‘best and brightest’, again who says that? Sure Enda isn’t going to be explaining the finer points of quantitive easing but isn’t that he appointed Richard ‘brains’ Bruton, so isn’t it Richard’s job to explain Fine Gael policy to the public – so if people don’t know what Fine Gael policy is why is it Enda’s fault not the spokesperson?

      Enda’s fault seems to be not tackling the expectation, set for him by the media it seems, to be a policy wonk.

      He appoints an economist to finance, an actual doctor to health, an actual businessman etc etc and yet we still expect him to be expert on everything – have we leart nothing from what caused the mess we are in now?

      Whatever Enda’s faults are I can tell you Richard was never the solution and if he had won, how long before people are moaning he is too nerdy and lacks the common touch and all that.

  5. @Eoin O’Malley,

    I think your parenthetical aside – “arguably the better half” – inadvertently highlights the perceived slights that acted as a catalyst to energise Kenny’s support among the rural/provincial parliamentary members. It also highlights the requirement of our electoral system to deliver ministers and potential ministers as well as effective parliamentarians. It is, perhaps, a tad unfair to be dismissive of representatives chosen by the people who may not have ministerial ambition or capability, when successive governments have reduced the Dail to a rubber-stamping, talking-shop.

    Turning your question on its head and asking: who’s saddest?, I think it is those who nurtured a hope that a more liberal, centrist, possibly more urban (given the distribution of population) political force would emerge. Kenny secured support and loyalty because he oversaw the restoration of the FG “family” in rural/provincial areas to its traditional size and heft. (And he did much to dismantle the PDs who took their TDs from FF and votes from FG – this provides some evidence of a liberal, centrist, pragmatic strand in FF.)

    I believe Bruton’s revolt was motivated by a perception (and polling evidence) that Kenny lacked the ability to “kick-on” and boost FG support in urban areas – in particular the greater Dublin area.

    Most governments in the EU secure widespread popular support by adopting a liberal, centrist, pragmatic stance that tries to steer a course between the small state, low taxes, free market fetishism of the neo-cons and the big state, centralised authoritarianism of the left. Merkel and Sarkozy colonise this territory; Cameron and Clegg happened to find it – with remarkably widespread popular support. It is the only position from which the necessary popular consent will be secured to implement the major adjustments required in response to the ongoing economic and financial crisis in the EU.

    But, as usual, Ireland preferes to march backwards facing the future.

    • It might be a tad unfair to be dismissive of the choices voters make given the limits of what parliamentarians in Ireland can do, but I don’t think it unfair to be dismissive of those individuals who want run the country but have shown an inability to master policy and have failed as communicators.

      Your second point is well made, and I think highlights the problem in Fine Gael. Kenny spoke about a ‘Celtic and Christian country’ (whatever that is), but Bruton failed to articulate any alternative vision.

      • I suppose “Celtic and Christian” is a bit more inclusive than “Gaelic, Catholic and free”, but I think the late, lamented Nuala O Faolain summed up the mindset best:
        “For myself, I like it that people persist in mingling the everyday and the otherworldly. It is an ancient and a universal practice. And although, on a public level, one would like Ireland to be run in a reasonable, pluralist, modern way, there is more to living here than being a citizen. There is a capaciousness not so much of belief as of endlessly suspended judgment, which to my mind is precious.”

        Perhaps it is this mindset that permits the luxury of two national catch-all parties that both contain mildly liberal-centrist, pragmatic cores, but can accommodate the full gamut covering rural conservatism, religious confessionalism, gombeenism, social democracy and elements of collectivism, with a third partly national party covering progressive, social democratic and more collectivist tendencies.

        There will be no meaningful political reform, or genuine advance from the groupthink, mania and imbecility that led to the current financial and economic crisis, until the liberal-centrist, pragmatic elements in both FF and FG decide to bury the Civil War for once and for all and form a governing association.

        But that wouldn’t be very Irish, now would it?

      • As it was a confidence motion surely the time for articulating the alternative in detail would be after the party had decided it didn’t have confidence.

        I would love to get those parliamentary party members who backed Enda to go on a canvass in Dublin and the larger cities a few times a week for a month or so.

        Also, I would have to ask that those Senators who backed Enda should show their real commitment by announcing that if they are not returned as TDs if they stand for the Dáil that they will not seek election again as members of the Seanad. After all, they believe that there will be enough of an increase in the party’s support to elect them don’t they, and surely they’re not the sorts to have an each way bet on this are they? And they favour the abolition of the Seanad so they should be prepared to stand over that position.

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