THE question of whether or not there was a "mole" in the Bruton camp passing on information to the party leadership has been a hot topic of conversation within Fine Gael since Enda Kenny fought off the challenge from his former finance spokesman.
One senior party figure definitively told the Sunday Tribune last week that there was "a mole in the Bruton camp", insisting that though the identity of the mole would never come out, this "wasn't just loose talk".
Another TD who backed Kenny in the leadership challenge admitted that there had been a lot of talk about it and that it had already gone into party folklore. "It's a great yarn but there mightn't be any truth in it," he said. Talk of a mole was "paranoid", the TD said, adding that it was typical of the kind of fallout from a leadership challenge.
This was echoed by a supporter of Richard Bruton. "I've heard talk of it. It's great subterfuge but I really don't think so. It was a leadership challenge so you had whole sections of people on both sides who were telling both camps what they wanted to hear.
"It may have been the case that some on the Bruton team were not as committed to change and there were waverers, but was it a big strategic move? I don't think so. I don't think there was one [a mole]."
Meanwhile, Richard Bruton is expected to be named as education spokesman in the new Fine Gael front bench to be announced later this week. It is understood that while matters have not been finalised, Bruton has intimated that for the sake of party unity he is willing to return.
However, there won't be any place on the team for other rebels Michael Creed, Olivia Mitchell, Brian Hayes, Denis Naughten and Billy Timmins. There is a major question mark over the future of Simon Coveney, while the expectation is that one of two Laois-Offaly deputies Charlie Flanagan and Olwyn Enright will be axed.
Of the other frontbench rebels, Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd and Leo Varadkar will survive mainly for reasons of geographical balance, with O'Dowd possibly getting the lower profile Defence portfolio.
Of those who backed Kenny, Alan Shatter will be elevated to Justice, Michael Ring to Social Protection and Jimmy Deenihan could get Tourism, Sport and Culture. Deirdre Clune, David Stanton, Sean Barrett, Frank Feighan and John Perry are also likely to be elevated to the front bench.
And there may be a surprise elevation for another dissenter, Damien English, as Kenny moves to unite the party.
Richard Bruton will lose all credibility if he returns to the front bench, not to mention losing the respect of those who backed him but who now face a future in the wilderness while he is welcomed back to the fold!