Kenny in clearest signal he will name departure date after EU meeting
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has given his clearest signal yet that he will spell out a departure date as Fine Gael leader after next Saturday's crunch EU Council meeting.
He said he would make his intentions about his future "very clear" once he was "happy" that there were ground rules for the EU's negotiations on Brexit.
EU leaders are gathering in Brussels next week to adopt guidelines for the approach of the 27 remaining member states to the looming divorce negotiations with Britain.
Mr Kenny's remarks came after he met the prime ministers of the Netherlands and Denmark, two of the other EU countries expected to be worst hit by the impact of Brexit.
At a press conference in The Hague, Mr Kenny was asked about the snap election in the UK and if he would still be in office to congratulate the winner in June.
"I always congratulate people on many things," Mr Kenny responded, but added: "Once I'm happy with having the ground rules for Brexit in place I'll make my intentions very clear."
Mr Kenny refused to say if there would be a new Fine Gael leader in place by the end of the current Dáil term this summer as many in the party expect. He again referred to next week's summit and his plan to make his intentions "very clear" after that.
On the British election Mr Kenny said he could understand Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to seek a mandate to strengthen her position ahead of Brexit talks.
Asked about hope that this could lead to a soft Brexit, Mr Kenny said it should be pointed out that Mrs May has said she is "not negotiating on the basis of a hard Brexit".
Mr Kenny said that he had met with Dutch leader Mark Rutte and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lkke Rasmussen because the three countries had common interests. These include strong trade relationships with the UK.
He said they wanted these interests reflected in the EU Council's guidelines for the Brexit talks, but that they were not a "breakaway group", insisting "we are part of the 27".
Mr Kenny thanked the two prime ministers for their understanding of Irish issues, including the future of the Border.
Mr Rutte said the beginning of the talks should deal with financial matters and "border issues". Mr Rasmussen said Brexit brought a risk of "barriers to trade" including the "particular problem which Ireland will be confronted with" and that he hopes for "fair and pragmatic solutions".
The Taoiseach delivered a speech to the Societeit de Witte on the future of the EU where he said "populist fringe political movements" were Europe's biggest challenge.
Mr Kenny was introduced to the audience as the longest serving TD in Ireland's history. He clarified this wasn't the case, but noted he was the longest serving Fine Gael Taoiseach, a milestone he reached last week.
Mr Kenny quipped: "There are some people back in Ireland who would say, 'well, he's served beyond his mark anyway'."