Kenny seeks to play down '10 more years' speculation
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has moved to play down speculation surrounding him leading the country beyond the next Government's term in office.
Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe sparked a debate over the Taoiseach's tenure by insisting that he would like to see Mr Kenny continuing to lead the country into the next decade.
Mr Kehoe's comments led to widespread speculation about Mr Kenny's intentions after the next general election and came after his personal poll rating plummeted seven points to 25pc last weekend.
It also dampened expectations of a leadership challenge from any of main contenders, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
However, a government spokesman last night insisted the Taoiseach's term in office would be determined by the electorate after the next general election.
"How long the Taoiseach remains in office is a decision for the people of Ireland. They will vote in the upcoming general election and determine who the next government and Taoiseach will be," said the spokesman.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe was less than enthusiastic when asked for his opinion on Mr Kenny remaining in power into the next decade.
"It's a matter for the people, first and foremost, who they want to elect as the next Taoiseach and it is a matter then for who the next Taoiseach is for how long they remain in office," Mr Donohoe said.
He said the Taoiseach would have his support as leader of Fine Gael as long as he "retains the ambition and drive" to lead the party.
Other senior Fine Gael figures dismissed the idea of Mr Kenny continuing as party leader beyond the next government.
But Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan supported the idea of 10 more years of Mr Kenny, saying: "He's bouncing out of himself with energy and obviously feels as young as the people he surrounds himself with."