'A strong and consistent friend' - Theresa May leads worldwide tributes to Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny will end his 15-year tenure as Fine Gael leader at midnight tonight and world leaders have paid tribute to his political career.
Mr Kenny was first elected as a TD in 1975 and became known as the 'Father of the Dáil' due to being the longest serving Taoiseach in Fine Gael history.
Leading tributes to the Mayo man were British Prime Minister Theresa May and former Prime Minister David Cameron.
Theresa May described the outgoing Taoiseach as a "strong and consistent friend to the UK."
"I wish him all the very best for the future," she wrote.
David Cameron took to Twitter to pay tribute, writing: "Enda Kenny TD was a strong leader for Ireland, a great partner for the UK, and remains a good friend.
First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon also had kind words to say about Mr Kenny.
"Sending best wishes. I enjoyed working with him in the British/Irish Council and he has always been a good friend to Scotland."
Fellow Fine Gael TDs Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney - the two frontrunners to succeed him - also paid tribute to their outgoing leader.
"When Enda took over the leadership of our Party we were broken and demoralised," Mr Coveney said.
.@EndaKennyTD was a strong leader for Ireland, a great partner for the UK, and remains a good friend.— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 17, 2017
PM: Enda Kenny has been a strong and consistent friend to the UK. I wish him all the very best for the future.— UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) May 17, 2017
"With his vision, determination, positivity and relentless work-rate he led our Party back from defeat and to sustained electoral success, culminating in victory in the 2011 General Election and a record result for our Party.
"I am proud to have served in Opposition and then in Government with Enda. I saw at close quarters how skilled and driven he was to succeed for our Party, in Government and for our Country. His record in Government since 2011 will be viewed very positively by historians, not least how he led the restoration of our economic financial independence over that period, which was a landmark event.
"But it is not just these high profile moments that I reflect on, I recall the energy and excitement of a number of elections campaigns - any day on the campaign trail with Enda was a lively one; or those early days in Government when the economy teetered on the brink and Enda’s calm and clear headed leadership helped guide us through; or the late nights and long hours trying to construct a new coalition Government in 2016."
While Leo Varadkar described him as an "extraordinary Taoiseach and Fine Gael's most successful leader ever."
"He brought Fine Gael from the edge of extinction to its current position as the largest party in the State. He brought Ireland from the brink of bankruptcy back on to the road to prosperity,” Mr Varadkar said.
"Enda gave hope to a battered and bruised Ireland in 2011. His dedication and determination gave Fine Gael a landslide in that year’s general election. But more importantly, he brought this country back from the brink of economic collapse, and offered political stability when countries across Europe were staring into the abyss."
Mr Varadkar said he’ll never forget the day that "Irish democracy was handed back from Troika".
"It’s incredible to think that we have climbed from those depths and are once again the fastest-growing economy in Europe.
"On a personal level, I owe him so much. He appointed me to the Party’s Front Bench following my first election as a TD. I was honoured to accept a Ministerial position from him after the 2011 election. I have learned a lot from Enda, in particular how to lead a team of people with many talents and diverse views."
Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin thanked Enda for bringing Ireland "back from the brink."
"The period from 2011 to 2016 was a difficult time to hold public office in Ireland. But regardless of the challenges we faced, Enda Kenny took them on with humour, grace, and determination.
"He did his country much service, and I wish him the very best in the next chapter of his life."