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James Reilly and Enda Kenny.
heave on hold

"Look ... things happen": Reilly defends role after 'clear the air' Fine Gael meeting

Last night’s meeting of TDs and senators was described as ‘robust’ and ‘cathartic’.

Updated at 10am 

FINE GAEL DEPUTY leader James Reilly has been doing the rounds of the morning radio shows, in the wake of his party’s ‘clear the air’ parliamentary party meeting last night – where he faced criticism from members.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s reappointment last week of Reilly, who lost his seat at the general election and was later appointed to the Seanad, to the deputy leadership role prompted pressure from the backbenches – leading to speculation that a heave was in the offing.

There have been concerns among Fine Gael TDs and senators that they could be bounced into another election before they have time to select a new leader. Kenny previously said he did not intend to lead his party into the next general election.

The reappointment of Reilly led to an upsurge of criticism of the Taoiseach – and on Monday of this week Kerry TD Brendan Griffin called on him to step down as leader inside the next two months.

Heave on hold 

However high profile supporters like finance minister Michael Noonan have rallied to the Taoiseach’s cause since talk of a challenge emerged – and none of the potential contenders for Kenny’s crown have opted to launch a bid.

TDs and senators who were at last night’s meeting described the mood as “tense” and “cathartic” – with one member describing the debate as “robust”.

Reilly, who was sacked from the deputy leadership role last month, before being asked to take up the job again in a meeting with Kenny last week, told Morning Ireland there were no hard feelings about the way the issue was handled.

“Look … things happen,” he said.

Very often people ascribe a conspiracy to something that is merely something else.

On Newstalk Breakfast, he said that Kenny felt he was “best placed to do it, and I thank him for that confidence and intend to reward that confidence by doing the job to the best of my ability”.

Members had come up to him after the meeting to express their support, with many saying they had not heard of any disquiet about his appointment, Reilly said.

He conceded “it was an issue” in certain parts of the country, and added that he intends to go to constituencies where there are reservations and “let them see the nature of the job I am doing”.

He said that, growing up, he and his siblings settled their differences “in house and then we faced the world as a family – and that is what Fine Gael will do”.

Kenny also responded to criticism from the floor at last night’s meeting, with the Taoiseach offering to meet members one-on-one to address their issues.

In other developments at the meeting last evening, housing minister Simon Coveney confirmed his Action Plan for Housing, which will address the housing and homelessness crisis, would be launched next Tuesday afternoon, subject to Cabinet approval.

With reporting from Christina Finn and Aoife Barry. 

Read: The contenders for the Fine Gael leadership, from most to least likely >

Read: A major business lobby group wants a €1 BILLION social housing spend >

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