Monday 19 March 2018

Kenny will not remain as leader beyond life of next Dáil

Paul Kehoe: comments have angered his party colleagues
Paul Kehoe: comments have angered his party colleagues
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has declared he will stand down as leader before the end of the next Government, if re-elected. He said he had no intention of serving beyond the term of the next Government.

Mr Kenny yesterday strongly rebuked his Chief Whip Paul Kehoe over comments about how long the Taoiseach wished to stay as leader.

Last week, Mr Kehoe caused controversy when he said Mr Kenny wanted to remain as leader of the country until past 2021. But the Taoiseach said Mr Kehoe had used a great deal of "poetic licence" when he was speaking.

Mr Kenny said the question of who governs the country was firstly a matter for the people and his priority was to finish the job he has and get the country back to work.

Senior government sources have said it is their understanding that Mr Kenny, if elected, would step down in 2018, once the target of "full employment" has been achieved.

When pressed, this was clarified as meaning 2.1 million people at work.

"It would be very arrogant and presumptuous of any public representative to assume that they can be elected to anything, myself included, until the people vote," said Mr Kenny.

"I have no intention of staying beyond the remit of the next Government to be Taoiseach."

Speaking in Co Mayo, Mr Kenny said it was his intention to win the forthcoming general election and lead a Fine Gael/Labour government.

Senior Fine Gael politicians were astounded at Mr Kehoe's comments last week and believe that they could prove damaging if taken seriously by the electorate. "Every Fine Gael TD lost votes when he said that," one minister said.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the Taoiseach was angered and made uncomfortable by Mr Kehoe's comments about the leadership.

"Honestly, this is a summer story that the Taoiseach himself is uncomfortable with," said Mr Coveney.

"It is the people who will decide who leads the country, not politicians. I am not going to make any comment about Enda's future. He is a strong leader and successful Taoiseach.

"Paul Kehoe offered a view and he is perfectly entitled to his view, but I wouldn't be reading anything like what has been read into this story. It is speculation and not particularly relevant.

"I would be very surprised if that was the case. If you want an honest answer from me, this was Paul Kehoe doing an interview, giving personal views and being open.

"From my understanding, the Taoiseach is trying to dampen this story down, I don't think there is any thought process beyond that."

Meanwhile Mr Kenny has been accused of "naked and pure electioneering" by Fianna Fáil's Seán Fleming over reports that the Government is to increase the state pension for the first time in seven years.

Reports suggest that the Government intends to increase the old-age pension by €5 a week in the forthcoming Budget.

Mr Fleming, Fianna Fáil's public expenditure and reform spokesman, said the reaction from people he had spoken to was one of derision to the proposal.

"People are already seeing it for what it is - naked and pure electioneering," he said.

Earlier, Mr Kenny said hotel rooms and bed and breakfasts were "not suitable" places for homeless families to be housed in. He was speaking after figures showed a significant rise in homeless numbers.

"It is not suitable to have people staying in bed and breakfasts and it is not suitable for people to be staying in hotels, particularly when there are children involved," Mr Kenny said.

Irish Independent

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