Coveney and Varadkar agree on a St Patrick's Day ultimatum for Kenny
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is to finally address questions surrounding his leadership on Wednesday after coming under pressure from his two most likely successors.
Mr Kenny will be expected to set out a firm timeline for his departure. Failure to do so will undoubtedly result in a motion of no confidence being tabled immediately.
Fine Gael has been in turmoil this weekend amid growing fears that the leadership issue could force an early general election. Today’s Sunday Independent/Millward Brown Kantar opinion poll shows Fine Gael trailing its main rival Fianna Fáil by eight points.
But in a statement to Independent.ie, a spokesman for Mr Kenny said:
“The Taoiseach will address the parliamentary party on Wednesday and won’t be making any comment on the issue (of leadership) before then.”
Earlier, Housing Minister Simon Coveney said he believes Mr Kenny should be replaced as Fine Gael leader following his planned trip to Washington for St Patrick’s Day. The claim was immediately echoed by Mr Coveney’s main rival Leo Varadkar on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking on RTÉ’s ‘The Week in Politics’, Mr Coveney said the transition in Fine Gael should be “calm and orderly” as he hit out at other TDs for issuing “threats and ultimatums” to Mr Kenny.
“In my view, we should trust the Taoiseach on this. My view is that the Taoiseach should go to Washington for St Patrick’s Day. But I expect the leadership within Fine Gael, but ultimately the leadership in the country, the issues around that will be dealt with very quickly after that,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ’s ‘The Week in Politics’.
Mr Coveney stood by his strategy of painting Mr Varadkar as more impatient in relation to the leadership issue.
“I think the emphasis has been a little bit different from Leo and me. I think he wants to push things, he wants clarity from the Taoiseach on timelines,” the told broadcaster Áine Lawlor.
Mr Coveney added:
“I’ve said very clearly that I don’t think people in the party should be coming out and putting down ultimatums and making threats of motions of no confidence and demanding immediate statements from the Taoiseach.”
He said the Taoiseach has brought the country through a “storm” and is “owed” the respect by members.
The intervention by Mr Coveney came just hours after Mr Varadkar released a statement that put huge pressure on Mr Kenny to step aside.
“Everyone is waiting to hear from the Taoiseach. The current situation is distracting and destabilising for the Government, the party and the country. I have full confidence in the Taoiseach to settle it,” the statement said.