Ministers unsure on Enda Kenny exit plan

Several ministers remain unconvinced Taoiseach Enda Kenny will resign as Fine Gael leader tomorrow and instead may signal a date later in May or June wherein he would step aside.

Ahead of a highly-anticipated party meeting tomorrow where Mr Kenny has promised to address the leadership, there is increasing speculation about the contenders and who might back them in a contest.

Mr Kenny last night hosted a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on housing in which he was said to be in “flying form”, inquiring about planning and building for the next 20 years, said an informed source.

Education Minister Richard Bruton has also not ruled himself out of running for the Fine Gael leadership.

Mr Kenny has pledged to make an announcement tomorrow, after last week flagging at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting in Leinster House that he will address the issue.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney last night attended a party AGM in Cork North West as he continued to build support for his campaign to be leader. Last night, councillors at the AGM gave him their full support in his bid to become the next FG leader.

But Agriculture Minister Michael Creed — who has not declared which candidate he will support — last night attended a separate party event in Carlow- Kilkenny as opposed to the meeting in Cork North West, his own constituency.

His officials said he had previously agreed to attend the Carlow-KIlkenny Fine Gael AGM and so could not attend his own in Cork North West. “It’s just a diary clash,” said his spokesman.

Party figures are unsure which way Mr Creed’s support could go and whether he might support Mr Coveney in his native Cork or instead side with Dublin-based Leo Varadkar for the leadership.

While the Carlow-Kilkenny meeting included supporters of Mr Varadkar such as local TD John Paul Phelan, campaign groups for Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney said there was nothing to read into the fact that Mr Creed was not attending the one with Mr Coveney.

The housing minister’s spokeswoman said he had been asked by Mr Creed to attend the Cork North West AGM meeting in his place.

Elsewhere, Mr Varadkar attended a Dublin launch yesterday but refused to comment on fresh speculation about Mr Kenny possibly delaying his announcement. “Certainly, when the vacancy does arise I’m ready for that,” he said, adding that nobody knew what Mr Kenny would say tomorrow.

The comments come after Mr Kenny confirmed that he would travel to the US as part of an Enterprise Ireland trade mission. The mission will visit New York, Seattle and Chicago between June 4 and June 9.

Mr Kenny confirmed he would visit Chicago. But sources say he is expected to fly to Ireland for June 6, when a leadership final vote may go ahead and a result announced if a three-week election race is triggered tomorrow, as expected.

Meanwhile, Mr Bruton has not ruled himself out of a leadership run. Mr Bruton, who ran in 2011 as well as 2002, said he did not know what Mr Kenny might say tomorrow. “He has been a fantastic Taoiseach over a very difficult period in our history, he needs to be given the credit for what he has achieved and the space to set out his own timetable.”

Other ministers are also unsure of his intentions: “He has fooled everybody before. I believe he won’t resign and instead will indicate a timeline to maybe go in June.”

Editorial: 10

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