ENDA Kenny has brushed aside speculation that he will take a top EU job – and insists he wants to lead Ireland for a second five-year term.
The Taoiseach said he remained focused on fixing the Irish economy, which remains fragile, and was determined to get EU help with the legacy of bank debt. He dismissed ongoing rumours linking him to one or other of two top Brussels jobs due to fall vacant this summer – the heads of the EU Commission and the EU Council.
"The mandate given to me was to take our country out of an unholy economic mess that we had inherited and sort out our public finances and get our country working," he said.
"I'm very happy that our people have moved to a point where we had a clear plan and strategy to exit the bailout. We now have a strategy to follow through on that with the publication of a medium-term economic strategy.
"That's my mandate. That's the trust the people placed in us, that's what we've got to do."
Mr Kenny conceded that Irish banks had much more to do to help distressed mortgage holders and restart lending in the economy. But he argued that, overall, the banks were healthy enough to pass upcoming EU stress tests.
The Taoiseach said the Government would continue to seek help with €30bn bank debts through the EU leaders' summits and finance ministers' meetings. He again pointed to the June 2012 EU leaders' summit, which formally recognised Ireland as a special case and he made it clear that the campaign continues for practical implementation of this decision in principle.
Mr Kenny said the US had the political and economic structures for a swifter response to its bank crisis. The EU had to debate many issues but by now it was poised to deal with its banking problems reasonably soon.
Mr Kenny said he believed Ireland could continue to function within the European Union – even if British voters opt to quit the 28-nation bloc in a referendum expected before 2017.
"Irrespective of whatever decision Britain makes, we have our trading arrangements with Britain," the Taoiseach said.
But Mr Kenny added that Britain benefited from the EU with the single market access, special EU-US links and a general boost for trade which has helped it to sustain 40 million jobs. However, he added that the EU would be much weaker without full UK participation.