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Kenny favours Fitzgerald replacing him rather than Leo or Simon

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TIPPED: Frances Fitzgerald

TIPPED: Frances Fitzgerald

TIPPED: Frances Fitzgerald

Enda Kenny was first elected a TD in 1975 at the age of just 24, having taken the seat held by his late father until his death.

He has been returned by the people of Mayo at every subsequent election and became leader of Fine Gael in 2002.

As the longest serving TD, Kenny is also the Father of the Dail. Talk of Enda Kenny remaining on as leader until after 2021 would still leave him well short of being the longest serving political leader.

Ex-Cuban dictator Fidel Castro holds the record for remaining in office, at 52 years and 62 days.

However, it is far more likely that Kenny if re-elected Taoiseach, will stay on no longer that 2018.

Senior party sources close to Kenny have made it known that the Taoiseach is said to favour Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald as his successor.

He is known not to be close to Health Minister Leo Varadkar and is said not to be keen for him to replace him.

They also say he is in two minds over Coveney and this is why he is keen on Fitzgerald at the moment.

Varadkar, on coming out as gay earlier this year, indicated his impatience with politics, stating that he does not expect to be in the Dail when he is in his fifties.

However, he showed his leadership capabilities in 2014 when he broke ranks with Kenny and then Justice Minister Alan Shatter and publicly commended the actions of the two Garda whistleblowers.

On becoming health minister, he won plaudits for achieving a "realistic budget" for the health system but the sheen has been coming off his performance in recent months as waiting times for treatment and trolley numbers remain stubbornly high.

Coveney is well liked across the party and his family is steeped in Fine Gael heritage.

This coupled with his "safe pair of hands" persona make him a very strong contender.

But Fitzgerald has the backing of the party hierarchy and to some is seen as the perfect next step after Kenny.

Aged 65, she is not a long-term replacement for a man who is one year younger than she is.

But she is a woman and there is a building desire within Fine Gael to have a female leader.

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She too has the image of being a safe pair of hands and this could ultimately see her emerge as a compromise candidate.


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