Wednesday 24 January 2018

'Politics draws you into stormy waters' - Kenny refuses to say when he is stepping down

The frontrunner to be the next Taoiseach remained cagey today Photo: Tom Burke
The frontrunner to be the next Taoiseach remained cagey today Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to say when he will step down as leader of Fine Gael.

Making his first public statements since the prospect of heave was raised, Mr Kenny said he was “focused” on his job.

“Politics is a vocation. It draws you into stormy waters as well as calm,” he said.

His refusal to even acknowledge that ministers are moving against him will cause alarm within the party who want a peaceful transition to a new leader.

“Today for me was a very ordinary working day,” Mr Kenny said before giving reporters a long list of engagements he attended today.

He said tomorrow would be equally busy and he is planning two Brexit related trips to Brussels in the coming weeks.

“I’m focusing entirely on a really busy and challenging time ahead,” he said.

His party colleagues have said he deserves 'space' and will know when it is time to bow out.

Backbencher Pat Deering, speaking on RTÉ'S Six One News, said he expected the Taoiseach to bring a timeline to the party's next parliamentary party meeting next week.

Mr Deering said it was clear the party was not ready for an election.

Despite his public interventions today, when he said that he would table a no confidence motion if Mr Kenny did not name his departure date Mr Deering has now said the Taoiseach "deserves time and space".

A timeline of up to 12 weeks has been mooted by party sources and today Mr Kenny's expected successor said the party leader will know when he needs to step down.

Largely considered the frontrunner to be the next Taoiseach the Social Protection Minister said Mr Kenny “has been a fabulous leader of Fine Gael”.

Fresh from a "calm parliamentary" meeting last night where Mr Varadkar and his colleague Simon Coveney both warned TDs to be ready for a snap election Mr Varadkar refused to answer whether they coordinated their statements.

Their statements were widely interrupted as a way of urging Mr Kenny to step aside.

Arriving at an event in Dublin today, Mr Varadkar said: “I think Enda Kenny has been a fabulous leader of Fine Gael for the last 15 years.

“The events of this week show that the timeline for a general election is now shorter than we might have thought.

“The Taoiseach has said that he won’t lead us into the next general election but I’ve absolutely every confidence that that he’ll know when the right time is for himself, the party and the country to step aside.”

He then walked away from reporters, refusing to answer any further questions.

How will Fine Gael pick Kenny's successor?

Fine Gael has recently overhauled its leadership selection process. This is what potential candidates are now facing:

They must secure the backing of at least seven TDs, senators or MEPs.

The 73 members of the parliamentary party will be key to victory as they make up 65pc of the vote.

Councillors account for 10pc of the weighted vote, while ordinary members are 25pc of the Electoral College.

Fine Gael’s Executive Council will be responsible for picking a polling date, not later than 20 days after a vacancy in the position of leader arises.

A candidate must be nominated in writing by members representing at least 10pc of the Parliamentary Party, not more than seven days after the vacancy arises.

Hustings will be organised between day 10 and day 18.

“The regional meetings will provide an opportunity for the Party membership including the local Public Representatives to meet the candidates,” the Fine Gael constitution states.

The  voting be by secret ballot with public representatives voting on the same day and at the same venues as the party membership.

Parliamentary Party members shall cast their vote at a special meeting convened by party chairman.


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