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Kenny: 'I would serve full second term and then step down'


Enda Kenny with Stephen Rae in the production area of Independent House on Talbot Street, Dublin

Enda Kenny with Stephen Rae in the production area of Independent House on Talbot Street, Dublin

Mark Condren

Enda Kenny with Stephen Rae in the production area of Independent House on Talbot Street, Dublin

Enda Kenny wants to be Taoiseach for a full five-year term after the General Election - but will not lead Fine Gael into the subsequent election.

If he becomes the first Fine Gael leader to be re-elected Mr Kenny plans to remain at the head of Government until 2021, at which point he will allow an orderly contest for leadership of the party.

And in an interview with the Irish Independent he reiterated that despite the growing appetite for an early election within his own party he has no intention of calling one before next spring.

"I've always said the election will be in 2016, and I see no reason to change that," he said.

In the clearest comments yet on his own political future the 64-year-old said: "If we win, and it's a matter for the people, they have the choice and the power, would be to serve the full term of the next period in Government. Finish the job that I was given, which was to restore our public finances and put our country back to work.

"And when I do that I would not seek a third term as Taoiseach and I would like to think at that point you would have a squad of men and women who are ambitious, who have got talent, who have got experience.

"And that I will hand over a country in very strong financial shape in which we can forge a new livelihood for all our people."

The comments are likely to be closely studied by leadership frontrunners Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who is seen as a close ally of the Taoiseach, also expressed her interest in leading the party last weekend.

However, during the interview in the Irish Independent's television studio Mr Kenny repeatedly refused to say whether he would anoint a potential successor.

"I will not seek a third term. We will then have a wonderful contest for the people of Fine Gael, for the party, with people of experience of energy and ambition and to give them a country in much better shape than I found it," he said.

Speaking about next month's Budget Mr Kenny said that there no question of the Government going beyond €1.5bn in tax cuts and new spending.

"While minsters and the departments will come looking for much more money than that we cannot and will not go beyond those limits.

"We are three weeks out from the Budget and we have pointed out on the tax end - to lower the burden of tax below 50pc, we have referred to childcare, we have referred to a number of issues," he said.

The Taoiseach said that the Cabinet won't "blow it" just because the country is entering an electoral cycle.

He said people are worried they will "go the road of populism and have auction politics".

"We are not going there. We have said what the limits are and we will decide on the priorities within that.

"Of course there are challenges about construction, homelessness, childcare, the cost of living, all of these things. There are challenges in justice, education, in health and so on."

He added: "These are all things we have to manage as best we can until we get to a point where we can balance our budget and we are hoping that will be sometime in 2018 and the rules change then.

"You don't have a deficit, your debts are way down on the European norms and you have a lot more to actually spend on social services and on making our country a really good place for people to live."

Mr Kenny launched an attack on all of the opposition parties and new grouping, saying that he will fight the election on the basis that the current coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party has worked "as a national partnership government securing that recovery".

"The opposition parties and groups of parties are all on the one line of boom and bust, increase taxes, populism that you don't have to pay for this that or the other. We recognise the challenges that we face, and that's my priority," he said.

"Grow this, as Michael Noonan has often pointed out, use the Budget as a policy instrument to expand your budget and create more jobs. The more you have working, the less tax they pay and the better your services."

He said that while there are huge pressure from various departments for more Budget money the main aim will be "to secure the recovery of the economy for the people".

"You see the progress that we have made and that the people have made is fragile. We could blow it in an instant."

Irish Independent