A significant rump of Fine Gael TDs and senators now believe that Enda Kenny has entered the "end game" as leader of the party. Although Kenny continues to retain the support of a hard core of loyalists, a growing number believe that recent opinion polls now mean that the game is up. One TD said the leadership issue could be dealt with in "a matter of weeks".
Opponents to Kenny's leadership are adopting a wait-and-see approach as they are extremely reluctant to initiate another heave. They say that it is up to Kenny or senior figures around him: Phil Hogan, James Reilly, Michael Noonan and Alan Shatter.
But they claim there has been a considerable shift at grass-roots level in the parliamentary party against Kenny following the recent opinion polls. "The party is totally demoralised. No one wants a heave or bloodletting, it has to be done quickly and internally," one senior deputy said.
However another dissident admitted that there was no sign of Kenny "going anywhere" and said there was a possibility that nothing would happen before the next opinion poll. "This could be a slow burner," he said.
There has been considerable activity over the last few days with TDs and senators being canvassed.
One TD said, "People in the parliamentary party have been talking to each other and the feeling is that we should give him time to make up his mind himself. He will be given some time but I would say it will be a matter of weeks rather than months."
But Kenny's renowned fighting skills, demonstrated last June, cannot be underestimated. He remains resilient and replied, "most certainly not" when asked about standing down. "Let's make this clear. We have had three polls in six days – wildly fluctuating and volatile polls. I am not fixated about any polls," he said.
However one middle-ground figure who supported Kenny in the recent heave said that "one or two more polls like last Thursday's poll and the man will make the decision himself".
Fine Gael will meet on Wednesday and the party's poll performances are likely to be discussed. The party's presidential dinner, a key event in the Fine Gael calendar, takes place next Saturday night in Dublin.
Richard Bruton is seen by the dissident wing as the only credible alternative to Kenny. "He's the one person that can unite the party," a TD said. However another party member, admitting Kenny is under pressure, said, "If Enda Kenny is the question, is Richard Bruton the answer?"