Enda Kenny bids farewell; party leaders share their thoughts on his legacy

Enda Kenny bids farewell; party leaders share their thoughts on his legacy

By Juno McEnroe, Political Correspondent

Enda Kenny has announced his resignation to the Dáil, receiving warm tributes from opposition leaders during his last day in office.

Mr Kenny also said that his time as Taoiseach was not about him but about addressing the challenges the country had faced.

One opposition leader said Mr Kenny's greatest legacy would be that had fixed the mess the country was in after the financial crash that had been left by others.

Mr Kenny's formal resignation comes after the leadership contest to succeed him, which came to a close with the election of Leo Varadkar as the next Fine Gael leader.

Mr Kenny earlier today also presided over his last Cabinet meeting with ministers, where tributes were paid by his colleagues.

The two-time Taoiseach's speech to the Dail comes ahead of his visit to President Michael D Higgins later today where he will formally give his resignation.

Mr Kenny's family including his wife Fionnuala, his son Ferdia and others were also present in the gallery during proceedings in the Dáil today.

Speaking to a packed chamber, he spoke of his time as a TD for 42 years in Dáil Éireann.

“This has never been about me, it has always been about the challenges that our country face."

He said he was eternally grateful to his supporters in Mayo and elsewhere.

He also described the difficulties of being in government as well as being a politician.

“The true measure of worth and courage is to keep trying again and again knowing that worth will go unrewarded.”

He thanked Fianna Fáil as well as Labour, who were in government during the last administration.

It was a “privilege and pleasure” to work with his colleagues in Fine Gael, he also told the Dáil.

Receiving an extended applause after his final words as Taoiseach in the Dáil, he sat down as other leaders took to their feet and praised his time as leader of the country.

Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin wished him and his family well.

He said Mr Kenny had given his party a “master class” of a leadership change. He said it was not columnists and reporting that determined his place in history but that it would be time that decided this.

Mr Martin said that Mr Kenny, leaving office, was “an Irish patriot and an Irish democrat”.

He said Mr Kenny had been courageous to take over his party and go on and win the election and work in Dublin, joking that this was especially so while his constituency colleague Michael Ring was back in Mayo.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams also wished the outgoing Taoiseach and his family well.

Surprisingly, Mr Adams said he would miss him and his “entertaining tales” of meetings he had had but also the meetings he had not had, including the one about the man with two pints.

But he also noted areas that were neglected, including a decision not to recognise Palestine as a state as well as the country's growing billions of euro debt. Furthermore, the failure to hold people to account was also noteworthy, including the crisis in the health service as well as the gardaí.

Mr Adams claimed Fine Gael was “wedded to bad policies and bad politics” and the party didn't “serve all of the people but only “some of the people”. Inequality ruled in Ireland, he contended.

The Fine Gael-led government had also neglected the North, argued Mr Adams.

Nonetheless, despite the criticism, the Louth TD also noted: “Enda Kenny is probably the best leader that Fine Gael ever had.”

Labour leader Brendan Howlin, a member of the last coalition government, also paid tribute to his former Cabinet colleague. Mr Howlin said it was ridiculous Mr Kenny had been held accountable for economic problems during his tenure.

“Our central role as to fix the mess that was created by others."

This was his greatest legacy, declared the Labour leader to the Dáil.

He also noted how Mr Kenny stepped down untainted by corruption, in sharp contrast to some of his predecessors.

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