Now Varadkar backs Kenny for second term
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has weighed in behind the prospect of Enda Kenny serving a second consecutive term as Taoiseach.
Just 24 hours after Mr Kenny tried to deflect attention away from his future, Mr Varadkar said he hopes the Mayo politician will lead the country for another five years.
Mr Varadkar, who is one of the favourites to become the next Fine Gael leader, claimed Mr Kenny is doing a "phenomenal" job as leader and should continue to serve as Taoiseach well beyond the next general election.
"Enda's done a phenomenal job as Taoiseach for the last couple of years. We've turned the economy around, we're in a much better place than we were four years ago," Mr Varadkar said.
"There'll be an election next spring. I really hope in the interest of the country that the people re-elect the Government and re-elect Enda Kenny as Taoiseach and that he serves a full second term," he added.
The remarks, which are similar to previous comments made by Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, will place fresh and unwanted focus on the Taoiseach's leadership, according to Fine Gael sources.
Speaking in Mayo on Sunday, Mr Kenny was clearly irate with Mr Kehoe, who he said had used "a lot of poetic licence" in his remarks.
Party figures felt the remarks "smacked of arrogance" and painted a picture of Fine Gael taking the next election for granted.
However, Mr Varadkar's latest intervention has simply served to place Mr Kenny's leadership under the spotlight once again.
Senior Fine Gael figures believe Mr Kenny will issue a rebuke to ministers to avoid further damaging controversies ahead of the general election.
Two close allies of Enda Kenny have said the Fine Gael leader believes Mr Kehoe's comments about his leadership "smacks of arrogance" in the eyes of the public.
"Given that Mr Kenny is facing a 'popularity crisis' according to the opinion polls, comments about serving another full term - by either Paul Kehoe or Leo Varadkar - are not helpful," said a senior member of Fine Gael.
Mr Varadkar was coy on his own leadership ambitions and refused to rule out seeking to become Fine Gael leader in the future.
"There is so much that could happen between now and then. Ask me that question when it arises," Mr Varadkar said.
"There's a lot of talent in Fine Gael, a lot of ministerial colleagues who are very competent and there is also a lot of new people who are coming through as well," he added.
Mr Varadkar said he is completely focussed on his departmental workload, which he described as "tough".
"I'm totally engrossed in health," he said yesterday.
Another potential future leader of Fine Gael, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, has said the Taoiseach was angered and made uncomfortable by Mr Kehoe's comments.