Enda hasn’t gone away, Mayo: Taoiseach says he will contest next election
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told his support base in Mayo that he will contest the next general election.
The dramatic announcement by Mr Kenny ahead of the Budget came after it was reported that the Taoiseach's local Fine Gael branch in Castlebar had established a committee to plan for his departure.
However, on Sunday evening Mr Kenny made the surprise announcement that he intended to run again at a Mayo constituency annual general meeting.
Junior Minister Michael Ring, who it is understood will also contest the next election, and Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin were also present.
Until now, Mr Kenny has only said he will not contest the next election as Fine Gael leader, but this is the first indication he has given that he intends to return to the Dáil after the next national vote.
It was reported that the Fine Gael Castlebar district organisation set up a committee to decide on a candidate to replace Mr Kenny, with the Taoiseach's daughter Aoibhinn seen as the favourite.
However, a Fine Gael source said the committee was set up to deal with local elections in three years' time, rather than Mr Kenny's departure.
"There was never a discussion about replacing the boss," a local source said.
Mr Kenny is understood to have told the meeting: "Despite media speculation, I won't be going away for a long time."
Another Fine Gael source said the Taoiseach's announcement received a round of applause from the membership present.
There has been widespread speculation within Fine Gael over when Mr Kenny will step down, but he recently revealed he plans to stay in place for at least two more budgets.
Fine Gael rebels are anxious to see Mr Kenny retire as leader as soon as possible and indicated they will put down a motion of no confidence before the parliamentary party after the Budget.
However, Kenny's supporters believe they have enough support within the party to defeat a motion of no confidence.
"He will defeat a motion, but I don't think it would do him any good and these lads will not wait forever for him to step aside," one minister said.
Last week, Waterford TD John Deasy said there are between 10 and 15 Fine Gael parliamentary party members who would back a heave against the Taoiseach.
Mr Deasy said it is likely there will be renewed focus on Mr Kenny's leadership after the Budget.
Before the Dáil broke for the summer recess, the Taoiseach's future was raised by a number of backbench TDs, including Kerry's Brendan Griffin, Louth's Fergus O'Dowd and Cork South West's Jim Daly.
At the Fine Gael think-in last month in Kildare, Mr Kenny indicated he intends to remain as party leader for another two years.