"And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half way up,
They were neither up nor down.”

Could the last two lines of the Grand Old Duke of York nursery rhyme be applied to Fine Gael in recent days?

No matter what happens in the days ahead it is arguable that the Taoiseach has, to a significant degree, ceded control of the timing of the General Election, writes Brian Dowling.

It’s easy to run the old line of a "media feeding frenzy" and the media have piled on the pressure about the election timing. But equally, a fair share of the latest bout of election fever has been driven from within Fine Gael.

Up to last Monday the Taoiseach was holding the line on having an election in 2016. Once he left the door open to November and a well-sourced story in the Irish Times flagged an election after the Budget the momentum was heading only one way.

It looked sheepishly like a self-fulfilling prophecy. The talk was moving rapidly from "will there, won’t there" be an election to “sure we might as well go for it now”.

What does it tell us about Fine Gael?

Well, pretty much that the party is "neither up nor down" on the timing of the election. Of course, the Taoiseach of the day is going to be asked about a likely date as Government enters the final months.

Holding the line keeps all the strategic options open and in a Coalition it keeps all sides on the same page.

Once senior Labour figures sensed that Fine Gael looked to be gearing up for an earlier than expected departure the mood changed.

Within Fine Gael there has been a procession of ministers and TDs all bowing to the prerogative of the Taoiseach while at the same time there are repeated stories of Mr Kenny coming under increasing pressure from some within his party to call an early election.

The problem now is that his options have narrowed to the extent that either he allows the momentum to continue to build towards November, and an election will become almost unstoppable, or he applies the brakes soon.

Just a week ago he still held the card of a snap election after the Budget in his back pocket. But that card has now been played.

There will be no surprise now if the country goes to the polls next month. And given the way this has evolved in recent days an election in November now comes with the risk of creating bad political blood with his partners in Labour.

Applying the brakes now and waiting until 2016 will rein in the momentum – but either way, the game is up.

It’s either time to continue the march up the hill or retreat back down.