Fine Gael's deputy leader Dr James Reilly has attempted to end fresh speculation over Taoiseach Enda Kenny's future, saying he is a man of "considerable experience" who will "know when it's time to go" writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Correspondent.
The Government senator made the remark as he warned anyone who believes they should replace Mr Kenny as the leader of the country that it is not in Ireland's interest "for the main Government party to consume itself with a leadership race".
On Monday, six cabinet ministers privately told the Irish Examiner that they are now of the view Mr Kenny will be forced to step down by summer 2017.
The claim, which was made despite Mr Kenny giving every indication of his intention to stay on until the papal visit in August 2018, has led to a fresh round of speculation over when the long-standing Fine Gael leader will depart.
Responding to the situation today, Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Education Minister Richard Bruton said the decision is up to Mr Kenny and that they continue to back him fully.
And asked about the issue on RTE Radio's Today with Sean O Rourke programme, Fine Gael's deputy leader and Government senator Dr James Reilly repeated the position - adding a leadership contest is not what Ireland needs right now.
"Speculation is the food of journalism to some extent, is it not? It's far too early [to discuss a change of leader], and I haven't heard any ministers speaking to me in such terms.
"I think Enda Kenny is a man of considerable experience, he has been a TD for a long time and he'll know when it's time to go.
"It is counter-productive from the country's point of view for the main Government party to consume itself with a leadership race," he said.