Saturday 10 December 2016

Varadkar puts leadership back on agenda with Kenny remarks

Published 17/10/2016 | 02:30

Leo Varadkar: complained that he is constantly under attack from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Leo Varadkar: complained that he is constantly under attack from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has said it would not be "credible" for Enda Kenny to step down as Fine Gael leader but remain on as Taoiseach.

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Mr Varadkar said any such scenario would cause problems within Fine Gael and that it would only be a matter of time until there was a "disagreement or a conflict".

Enda Kenny: under pressure to put a timescale on departure. Photo: Tom Burke
Enda Kenny: under pressure to put a timescale on departure. Photo: Tom Burke

Although Mr Kenny has yet to outline his departure plans, it has been widely suggested by TDs that he may seek to continue to serve as Taoiseach for a period after the new Fine Gael leader is appointed.

But speaking yesterday, Mr Varadkar completely rejected such a prospect in a move that has once again put the leadership back on the agenda.

"I don't think it would be credible," Mr Varadkar told RTÉ's Áine Lawlor.

"It might work for a very short period of time but I don't think you could have a prolonged period where you had a Taoiseach who was a Fine Gael member and a leader of Fine Gael who was someone else.

"Because it would only be a matter of time before there was a disagreement or a conflict on a policy issue. I haven't heard that suggestion ever made but I don't think it could work."

Despite saying he has not heard the suggestion before, it is one that has been made privately by Fine Gael TDs.

Read more: Eoin O'Malley: We don't have to like our leaders, but it does help

Some deputies believe the move would allow Mr Kenny to remain in situ while ensuring the party has a new leader in place in the event of a snap general election.

Mr Varadkar has previously hit out at the number of times he is asked about the leadership issue.

He refused to answer a question about the issue at the Social Protection Department press conference on Budget Day.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar also hit out at Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, saying he and others chose to him attack him every couple of weeks.

"What I have noticed is that barely two weeks goes by without some Fianna Fáil spokesperson having a go at me, very often it's Micheál Martin, and it's never about policy," the Dublin West TD said.

"I deal with Fianna Fáil all the time. I'm happy to work with them but I certainly won't be rolled over by them," he added.

Separately yesterday, Government sources said they expect Housing Minister Simon Coveney and Finance Minister Michael Noonan to meet this week to discuss concerns surrounding the new first-time buyers' scheme.

The Independent Alliance is also due to raise its own concerns this week.

One of the group's TDs, Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, has said the scheme might need to be changed if it is having negative consequences.

The first-time buyers grant was a central cog of the recent budget but has attracted serious criticism.

Fianna Fáil has been particularly critical of the decision to set the threshold for new homes at €600,000.

The party has labelled the scheme a "mansion tax" and says it will table a raft of amendments to improve it when it comes before a Dáil vote.

It's understood one of the party's amendments will be lowering the threshold to €400,000.

Irish Independent

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