Lame-duck Kenny 'gone by the spring'
Embattled Enda Kenny will step down by the spring following one of his most disastrous weeks since becoming Taoiseach, senior Government figures now believe.
Mr Kenny, who was last night described as "damaged goods" by one Fine Gael minister, is under major pressure to spell out his departure plan immediately after October's Budget.
The Fine Gael leader has endured a torrid week, which began with a slap-down from DUP leader Arlene Foster, followed by a tense parliamentary party meeting when his credibility was openly questioned.
Mr Kenny was also painted as being weak after he capitulated to the demands of Transport Minister Shane Ross to allow a free vote on the issue of Mick Wallace's bill on fatal foetal abnormalities.
The Taoiseach's decision to re-appoint James Reilly as deputy leader - just weeks after Dr Reilly had effectively been sacked - caused utter shock.
There is a now a growing consensus within Fine Gael circles that a leadership contest in the spring is a likely scenario.
Yesterday, more than a dozen ministers and backbenchers accepted Mr Kenny's authority over the party had been eroded. "He is damaged goods, it's time for him to go," one minister said.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has reiterated his desire to succeed Mr Kenny as Taoiseach but declined to say when he would like to see a contest take place. Housing Minister Simon Coveney said he expected the leadership to be discussed "in the not-too-distant future" but declined to comment on his own ambitions.
Meanwhile, the lack of affordable housing is undermining Ireland's attractiveness as a base for foreign investment, the State's competitiveness watchdog warned. An international survey found just London and Amsterdam less affordable.
This lack of affordable housing will hamper efforts by the IDA to secure new foreign direct investment expected to flow out of the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote.