Friday 15 December 2017

Explained: What happens next in the race to be Fine Gael leader?

Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar are seen as favourites to succeed Enda Kenny. Photo: Collins
Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar are seen as favourites to succeed Enda Kenny. Photo: Collins
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Things are moving fast in Fine Gael as speculation mounts that Enda Kenny will be stepping down as party leader in the next couple of months. So what happens next?

1. So, what are the latest developments in the Fine Gael leadership race?

Leo Varadkar upped the ante on Saturday night when he released a statement, which put huge pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to announce his plans to step aside.

Yesterday, Housing Minister Simon Coveney effectively handed Mr Kenny an ultimatum to vacate office in around two months – after the St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House.

Just hours later, Mr Varadkar said that he supported the call. So the ball is now firmly in the Taoiseach’s court.

2. When will Enda Kenny announce his plans?

His spokesman said he would address the issue at the parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday evening and not before. But if he fails to spell out his intentions in a clear fashion, he will undoubtedly face a motion of no confidence as early as Thursday.

If he loses that vote, he will be ousted as leader after 15 years at the helm.

3. If so many TDs want him gone, why don’t they lay down the motion immediately and get it over with?

That’s the preference of some – but not the majority. There is a strong feeling that Enda kenny (pictured inset) should not be “bullied” out of office because of the years of service he has given to the party and the country.

4. But if the Taoiseach goes, does the Government fall?

No. Fianna Fáil has said a change of leader will not change the terms of the deal struck between the two parties.

But many TDs believe the events of recent days has brought the prospect of a general election closer.

5. So when Mr Kenny does eventually step aside, what happens next?

A leadership contest will be announced immediately.

Regional meetings will be called, giving all candidates the chance to lay out their stall.

6. You say “all” candidates – but there’s only two, isn’t there?

While Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney are seen as the frontrunners, other candidates could potentially emerge.

Ministers Richard Bruton, Simon Harris, Paschal Donohoe and Frances Fitzgerald have all been linked to the leadership.

7. So are we facing weeks of ‘leadership’ stories?

You better believe it. But in the end, this issue will be decided at the ballot box. Party rules state that 65pc of the vote comes from the parliamentary party, which means TDs, senators and MEPs.

Some 25pc of the vote is allocated to ordinary rank-and-file members, while 10pc is allocated to councillors.

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