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Fine Gael leader faces showdown

The Republic's Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny faces a showdown with his parliamentary party when they vote on whether to remove him.

Senators and TDs are split down the middle with about half a dozen refusing to declare their hand ahead of the secret ballot.

Mr Kenny, leader since 2002 and credited with rebuilding the party after a devastating election defeat, lost the support of his front bench.

The bid to remove the Mayo TD was instigated by his number two, Richard Bruton, who has put himself forward to take over.

The 70 party representatives - 51 TDs, 15 Senators and four MEPs - will meet in Leinster House at 11am with Mr Kenny putting forward a motion of confidence in himself.

Twenty-two of Mr Kenny's supporters put up a show of strength and claimed a majority on the eve of the vote but opponents insisted they hold the bigger power base.

If Mr Kenny loses, the vote for a new leader is not expected to be in place for several weeks.

Mr Kenny and his supporters twice attempted to garner support within the parliamentary party.

Frontbench members, who were warned they faced the sack for not supporting Mr Kenny, were offered senior portfolios if they rowed in behind the leader. A number refused.

Secondly, Kenny campaigners approached backbenchers and promised a number of portfolios if they gave Mr Kenny their support.

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