Saturday 24 February 2018

Ministers demand more clarity from Kenny on exit plans

Frances Fitzgerald. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Frances Fitzgerald. Picture: Kyran O'Brien

Niall O'Connor and Sarah Collins

Enda Kenny must provide greater clarity surrounding his pledge to step aside as Taoiseach, ministers have warned.

They want the Taoiseach to make his intentions clear during his first address to the parliamentary party after St Patrick's Day.

Following a brief lull within the party over the leadership issue, Fine Gael figures are now becomingly increasingly concerned that Mr Kenny will seek to extend his tenure beyond the summer.

There is now no appetite within the party for Mr Kenny to remain on as leader beyond April, bar among one or two loyalists.

Mr Kenny, a Mayo TD, is due to travel to the US next week for his much-anticipated visit to the White House to meet US President Donald Trump.

But a number of party sources of various rank this week said Mr Kenny must spell out his plans at the first parliamentary party following his return, expected to be March 29.

"Any failure to do so will cause unrest," one Cabinet source told the Irish Independent.

There have been increasingly audible murmurs of discontent in recent days as more and more ministers and TDs say Kenny should step aside.


Meanwhile, the latent leadership battle within Fine Gael rumbles on. While supporters of Simon Coveney said they will maintain their strategy of allowing Mr Kenny to step aside in his own time, supporters of Leo Varadkar have been less yielding and insist Kenny must step aside within weeks following his return.

Both camps are confident that they have the potential to secure the majority of the support in the parliamentary - with focus now turning to courting the 19 senators.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has been gauging support within the party over her prospect of securing seven signatories for a leadership bid.

Names she is expected to seek support from include Health Minister Simon Harris - who withdrew from the leadership race this week.

Sources say Ms Fitzgerald is also eyeing up the backing of European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy and the party's deputy leader James Reilly.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, Regional Development Minister Michael Ring and Senator Joe O'Reilly are also set to be asked to sign her nomination form.

The speculation surrounding the Taoiseach's future came as one of his key allies secured a big victory.

Donald Tusk yesterday won a second term as president of the European Council, with the Taoiseach's backing.

The decision was made despite vociferous opposition from the government in Mr Tusk's native Poland, which had put forward an alternative candidate.

Mr Tusk's re-election was supported by all EU countries bar Poland.

Irish Independent

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