Sunday 19 November 2017

Kenny faces down his critics, saying: I'll still be Taoiseach in May

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Sosfia Corpuz, left, and Emily Lee-Duff from St Vincent’s Girls National School, Dublin, yesterday at the launch of the Blue Star Programme for this school year. Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Sosfia Corpuz, left, and Emily Lee-Duff from St Vincent’s Girls National School, Dublin, yesterday at the launch of the Blue Star Programme for this school year. Photo: Tom Burke

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Enda Kenny has dramatically faced down his critics as he revealed he has no intention whatsoever of stepping aside as Taoiseach until May at the earliest.

In a move that has buoyed his supporters within Fine Gael, Mr Kenny announced he will join fellow EU leaders for a crucial summit on April 29, during which the EU's strategy surrounding Brexit will be discussed.

Last night, backers of Mr Kenny went further, saying his successful visit to the US means he may seek to remain in situ until at least June.

In contrast, TDs who actively want Mr Kenny to step aside said there was still an expectation that he would outline his plans - as promised - following his return from the US.

Supporters of Leo Varadkar, in particular, expressed annoyance at an intervention by Finance Minister Michael Noonan on Monday night.

Mr Noonan stunned TDs by claiming Mr Kenny should remain in place for the second phase of EU Brexit negotiations, which are scheduled for June.

Sources within the party are adamant that Mr Noonan's intervention had been agreed in advance with the Taoiseach.

Mr Kenny's spokesman said he did not know whether this was the case, but admitted they could have discussed it privately.

"The Taoiseach will outline his position in due course and he should be afforded the space to do so," the spokesman said.

There is now a clear view within Fine Gael that Mr Kenny will use his successful visit to the US in a bid to draw out his tenure.

Challenged in the Dáil yesterday by Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath, Mr Kenny refused to set out a timeline for his departure. Mr McGrath argued that people deserved clarity around who will be leading Ireland into the string of Brexit talks that will begin once British Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 next week.

Mr Kenny said the Government's priorities were "clear" and focus on maintaining the common travel area, protecting the peace process and ensuring there is no return to a hard Border.

He said Ireland would be setting out these positions and added: "I intend to make my point very strongly on April 29."

Mr McGrath pressed for further clarity, remarking that it was "not a laughing matter" as the Taoiseach appeared to smirk.

"We need to know who is in charge. As you once said yourself Taoiseach 'Paddy likes to know'," he said.

However, Mr Kenny replied: "You won't be the first to find out."

It appears unlikely that Mr Kenny will be asked to clarify further his intentions at tonight's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.

But his critics are nonetheless refusing to accept a scenario whereby he remains in place until June. "Leo (Varadkar) and Simon (Coveney) will simply have to step up to the plate and confront Kenny together," said one source.

Separately yesterday, two Independent ministers clashed at Cabinet over the issue of flooding.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten raised objections over proposals brought forward by Independent Alliance Minister Sean Canney, in relation to cases whereby homeowners are seeking to relocate voluntarily.

It was initially expected that up to 100 homeowners would be able to avail of one-off sums of up to €200,000.

But Mr Naughten said that he felt the scheme was too restrictive. The two ministers met last night and agreed to revise the scheme ahead of next week's Cabinet meeting.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Also in this section