Ireland's largest opposition party, Fine Gael, will hold a crisis meeting in Dublin today. The front bench will discuss the future of its leader Enda Kenny.
Yesterday, George Lee, a high profile parliamentary member of the party, resigned as a Fine Gael TD (parliament member and left the party).
Before entering politics, Lee was a prominent economist for Ireland's largest television broadcaster RTE.
The Dublin South TD won over 50% of the vote in a by election eight months.
His decision to resign has cast doubt over Enda Kenny's future as the leader of Fine Gael.
According to opinion polls, Fine Gael is the most popular party in Ireland. They are hotly tipped to lead the government in the next general election.
However, Enda Kenny has never been popular amongst the general public and has a low approval rating.
Richard Bruton is the deputy leader of Fine Gael, and sources within the party told the Irish Times that Bruton would be elected as leader if he were to challenge Kenny.
“If Bruton challenged him, it would be all over for Kenny," said a source.
However, another member of Fine Gael’s front bench said that Bruton would not challenge Kenny.
"The instinct of the party will be to pull together and not to be seen to overreact to one event,” he said.
Fine Gael spokesperson on energy and communication, Simon Coveney, said the party face "real problems."
“The consequences of what he has done have caused and will continue to cause real problems for Fine Gael.
“Obviously, we need to discuss that in the frontbench meeting. I would like to hear Enda’s take on what happened and why. I feel it has no real implications for his leadership,”
Lee even alluded to Kenny’s position as leader when stepping down.
“There are certainly lots of large mutterings at the moment in relation to the leader’s position. It’s not something I’m involved with... It’s for other people to say how that will play out,” he said.
Lee added that his resignation could be a catalyst to a change in leadership.
“I said that if I were a catalyst that would be one thing but that would not make me the cause. The mutterings that have been going on have been going on regardless of what decision I made today. The people muttering had no idea that I would make a decision.”
In a statement to the media, Kenny said that he had given Lee a role as chairman of the party's economic and business affairs committee. He also said that he was saddened by Lee's decision to resign from Fine Gael and the Irish Parliament.
Kenny dismissed claims that his leadership was in jeopardy and said that 20 Fine Gael TDs endorsed him last weekend.
Fine Fail Prime Minister Brian Cowen said, “I have no comment on internal matters that affect other parties. As far as I am concerned a member of the Oireachtas has decided to resign. I wish him well.”
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