LATEST: Simon Coveney tells TDs and Senators to 'back off' Taoiseach

Latest: Simon Coveney has told Fine Gael TDs and Senators to 'back off' the Taoiseach, over the party leadership.

  • Taoiseach to make no comment on departure timeline until after parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday.
  • Mr Kenny likely to face a no-confidence motion if he fails to deliver a departure deadline at that meeting.
  • Simon Harris, Richard Bruton and Frances Fitzgerald refuse to rule themselves out as possible contenders
  • Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar agree that a new leader should be appointed after the Taoiseach returns from his St Patrick's Day trip to the US.
  • Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen says that it is important that Fine Gael resolve their leadership issues as soon as possible
  • Charlie Flanagan says his WhatsApp comments about the Health Minister were just "Sunday afternoon banter".

Update 6pm: Simon Coveney has told Fine Gael TDs and Senators to 'back off' the Taoiseach, over the party leadership.

Speaking at the launch of a local housing scheme in Cork, Minister Coveney said it was imperative that the party trust the Taoiseach to know what is best for the country.

As the countdown continues to Wednesday's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, Ministers Simon Harris, Richard Bruton and Frances Fitzgerald today refused to rule themselves out as possible contenders.

Minister Coveney and Leo Varadkar agreed at the weekend that a new leader should be appointed after the Taoiseach returns from his St Patrick's Day trip to the US.

Update 1.20pm: Charlie Flanagan has said his WhatsApp comments about the Health Minister were just "Sunday afternoon banter".

Leaked messages from a Fine Gael WhatsApp group showed him saying Simon Harris wanted out of the Department of Health.

Charlie Flanagan.

Minister Harris replied by saying 'telling funny jokes' is clearly not one of the Minister for Foreign Affairs' better attributes.

Charlie Flanagan said he regrets the comments and that Simon Harris is a 'great' Health Minister.

“It was a joke and should be taken as that. It was jovial Sunday afternoon banter and I regret it has been taken so seriously.”

Three Ministers have refused to rule themselves out of a potential Fine Gael leadership race.

In addition to Harris, Frances Fitzgerald and Richard Bruton have yet to declare their intentions.

Tánaiste Fitzgerald has said she wants to wait until after this week's parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday.

“It's very important that we wait and hear what the Taoiseach has to say and when he has made that clear I will be considering my own position. Let’s wait and hear what he has to say on Wednesday evening.

“He said he is going to speaking to the parliamentary party and he’s not making a comment before then. So I think we all look forward with interest to see what he has to say.”

RTÉ reports that it is unlikely that Mr Kenny will face a no-confidence motion until after that meeting.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen said on Morning Ireland that it was important that Fine Gael resolve their leadership issues as soon as possible.

"Fine Gael needs to put a process in place to deal with this issue and convince the public that it won't interfere with Government business thereafter".

Update 11.45am: Simon Harris says telling funny jokes is not one of the Minister for Foreign Affairs' best attributes.

His remark comes after a leaked WhatsApp message from Charlie Flanagan suggested Harris wants out of the Department of Health over the weekend.

Minister Flanagan has since clarified the remark, saying it was tongue-in-cheek.

It follows days of speculation over when the Taoiseach intends to stand down as leader of Fine Gael.

Speaking to Midlands 103 this morning Minister Harris says he is not going anywhere yet.

"Well my colleague Charlie Flanagan has many fine attributes, he's a great colleague of mine, but to make funny jokes on a Sunday afternoon is clearly not one of them.

"I'm absolutely honoured to hold this position. People can say what they like about me but I would hope even my harshest critics would acknowledge that I'm doing everything I can in this role and that I'm trying to engage with the role with an energy and enthusiasm that I think is befitting of the role."

Earlier 11.15am: Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes hopes Enda Kenny will announce his intention to step down as Taoiseach on Wednesday and allow the election of a new Fine Gael leader to begin.

"I'd like him to say he will stand down at a given time from the presidency of Fine Gael and that when an election has taken place he will stand down as Taoiseach," he told Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1.

"The electoral process in Fine Gael takes some three weeks so a period around that would be appropriate."

Dukes would like that process to begin this week.

"I think we are at the point now where as I say it’s inevitable it seems to me that there would be a change in leadership and the only question then is how we handle that with the greatest respect to Enda for whom I feel personally very supportive and very sorry that he is in this position but that it is carried out in such a way that does the least damage to Fine Gael and gives the best starting point to the next leader.

"Up to now the process has been extremely untidy."

Dukes added that an outgoing Taoiseach could "perhaps be more direct" when visiting the White House in March.

Earlier 10.50am: A former leader of Fine Gael is suggesting politicians from all parties take a vow of silence on social media.

Alan Dukes has said leaking to the media from party meetings is foolish.

"The business of people sitting at parliamentary party meetings tweeting out what's going on is absolutely corrosive.

"It makes it very, very difficult, if not impossible, to have a clear, rational debate, and it makes decision-making very, very difficult indeed."

Earlier: This week's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting will discuss the leadership and a series of leaks which emerged at the weekend.

WhatsApp messages from within the party appeared to suggest the Health Minister could enter the race, but they prompted Simon Harris to tweet that he has "no intention of engaging in idle speculation".

Two of the other expected candidates, Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar, agree Enda Kenny should remain in the position until after his St Patrick's Day trip to the White House.

Mr Kenny is expected to make a statement on his position at Wednesday's meeting.


Related Articles

More in this Section

Man charged in connection with international money laundering

Murder victim Jastine Valdez died due to asphyxia, inquest hears

Proposal to overhaul sex ed in schools to include LGBT relationships

Study shows shocking scale of online abuse against women


Lifestyle

Making Cents: Planning for your financial future

Dive right in for Christmas swim in aid of a good cause

In the frame during a big year for comics

Musical theatre review: Les Miserables

More From The Irish Examiner