The party had little answer as popular Taoiseach Bertie Ahern cemented his title as the Teflon Taoiseach (a reference to his uncanny ability to emerge unscathed from controversy after controversy). The party, facing a hostile media and criticism of Bruton's style of leadership, ditched him in 2001 in place of what was seen as the dream ticket of former Minister Michael Noonan for leader and former minister Jim Mitchell for deputy leader. However the dream proved to be a nightmare, as Fine Gael suffered its worst-ever election result in the 2002 general election, declining from 54 TDs to 31. Many of its best TDs, including most of its front bench, in particular Deputy Leader Jim Mitchell, lost their seats. Noonan resigned on the night of the election result, and was replaced by former Trade and Tourism Minister Enda Kenny in the subsequent leadership election. With the scale of the collapse, questions were asked as to whether the party had a future.
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