RELATIONS between the two camps in Fine Gael remain tense in the wake of the leadership heave, with a series of events in the past week emphasising the deep divisions that still exist in the party.
Strong comments from Waterford TD John Deasy last Saturday, a "difficult" social get-together of senators on Tuesday night and critical remarks from new finance spokesman Michael Noonan the following morning about a key party policy have all exposed claims from the leadership that Fine Gael is once again united after the recent vote of confidence in Enda Kenny.
There is also a lot of discussion among deputies about internal polls which point to significant gains for Labour in urban constituencies in Dublin and Cork at the expense of Fianna Fáil, with Fine Gael simply holding its own.
While Deasy is the only TD to publicly declare that it was "untrue" that the party was united and that a deep schism remained, privately other senior figures agree with the sentiments. "Of course there is division. It's still very raw... the party is split down the middle and the idea that it's all going to be behind us after a few weeks is ludicrous," one of the party's most senior TDs said this weekend.
"I don't think anyone is upping the ante. We all need some time away from each other to take stock," he added.
Conflicting accounts have emerged about a drinks and nibbles event for Fine Gael senators at the Stephen's Green Club in Dublin last Tuesday night. One version said the meeting was "extremely tense and nasty" with the room divided into two groups and a few barbed comments being exchanged.
However, others present reject this, insisting it was a "very friendly night out" and stating that if there was any tension it was confined to the margins and a couple of senators on each side. "The rest of us are live and let live," one said.
But there is a view among some who were in Richard Bruton's camp that there was "no kind of magnanimity being shown at all" by the victors. There is also concern among some deputies at what one TD described as a series of "own goals" over the past couple of weeks, culminating in Noonan's interview with Newstalk's Breakfast Show last week when he said he did not believe Fine Gael's economic stimulus plan, NewERA, would create 105,000 jobs as claimed by the party – a claim that is still posted on the party's website this weekend.
There is ongoing concern within the party about the current strength of the Labour Party, with a number of TDs privately referring to internal polls in Dublin North, Cork North-Central and other Dublin constituencies showing Labour – rather than Fine Gael – gaining seats at Fianna Fáil's expense. While deputy leader James Reilly says that Fine Gael wants to double its seat tally in the capital to 20, other senior figures say that it is Labour that is on course to win two seats in each of the Dublin constituencies, although they stress that such constituency polls are notoriously volatile.