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Enda Kenny holds centre stage in political theatre

Inside Politics: Government in suspended animation amid speculation over departure plans of Fine Gael leader

This may be the day. More likely, it is the day before the day. Or possibly, it is the day before the day that turns out not to be the day at all.

But sooner or later, the day will come. Sooner, probably.

It really is the only topic of conversation in Leinster House. For God's sake, you might say, why can't they get on with things in the meantime? But the truth is they can't.

Most of politics and much of Government awaits, frozen in suspended animation. Everyone is waiting for Enda Kenny to announce his departure as leader of Fine Gael, and therefore, within a short time, as Taoiseach.


His TDs, most of them, and especially the long-time critics who now prowl the corridors with a sort of laconic fierceness, expect he will make an announcement tomorrow at or before the weekly parliamentary party.

In recent days, some of those who hope most for the day have begun to doubt that, finally, the hour could be at hand. They worry, and half expect, that he will put them off again, as our Marie O’Halloran reports today.

The rest expect Kenny will clearly and unambiguously announce he is stepping down to allow a leadership contest to begin immediately. They are halfway between sorrowful resignation and impatience that the deed be done.

They wish the Taoiseach no ill will, but they believe it is time for him to go. They have also learned not to underestimate him, nor to predict his course of action too confidently. So have the rest of us.

The contenders to replace Kenny are likely jumpy horses awaiting the off. Word yesterday suggested Richard Bruton was on the hunt for nominators; Frances Fitzgerald might yet essay a gallop.

But, really, they and everyone else know that the choice is between Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar. Fiach Kelly has the latest on the campaign and assesses the state of the race.

Their camp followers spend their days talking up their man’s chances, disputing each other’s headcounts and tentatively, politely disparaging their opponents.

I know it’s Fine Gael, but expect things to get a little more rambunctious. Hopefully, anyway.

Political theatre aside, the choice that faces Fine Gael will be one that will set a course for this Government, for Fine Gael and - perhaps - for the country.

The one thing that is not yet obvious - but it will be - is the extent to which the change of leader will change the political context for this Government.

Look at how the election of Emmanuel Macron has changed the context in France. The choice faced by Fine Gael is hardly as acute as that in France, but, nonetheless, in an increasingly presidential age, the leader matters, and sometimes matters more than anything else.

Observe, for example, the British general election campaign and the hapless Jeremy Corbyn.

Soon, the encomia will be due for Enda Kenny, also the more sober evaluations. That phase will not last long. The following day, the focus will shift to the Choice.

Meantime, we wait.