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Fine Gael urge deputy leader not to challenge

Senior Fine Gael figures have today called for party unity and urged critics of Enda Kenny to “pull back” ahead of an expected challenge to his leadership, the Irish Times reports.

Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton phoned members of the party’s front bench over the weekend to sound out levels of support for his leadership bid.

The move came as Kenny insisted he would lead the party into the next general election. Events are expected to come to a head when the front bench holds its weekly meeting tomorrow morning.

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The current crisis was sparked by a poll published on Friday that showed Labor at 32 percent support, 4 points ahead of Fine Gael. The governing Fianna Fail and Green Party had 17 and 3 percent respectively while Sinn Fein had 9 and Independents 11 percent

Speaking at his home this morning, Bruton said the party's view would prevail in the matter. "What I'm saying is that I'm not commenting to the media about discussions I intend to have with parliamentary colleagues.

"I think the party needs to do serious thinking about its future, and that should be done with party colleagues and not through the media. . . . we're an open, democratic party, we need to talk to each other about our difficulties, and that's what I intend to do."

Refusing to be drawn on whether he supported Kenny, the finance spokesman said: "We [the party] have serious difficulties that we have to address and we have to decide how that is to be addressed," adding he had had discussions with Mr Kenny and other colleagues.

Elsewhere, it has emerged the party's transport spokesman, Fergus O'Dowd, has pledged his support to Bruton in the event of a leadership contest.

Speaking this morning, however, Fine Gael chief whip Paul Kehoe said nobody in the party wanted a leadership bid and appealed to Bruton to avoid such a course of action.

Kehoe said he had spoken to a large number of the parliamentary party. "Absolutely no-one has the appetite for what has been spoken about in the media," he said.