Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted he has not changed his mind on stepping down as leader of Fine Gael.

Following a heated exchange in Montreal yesterday over a question about the leadership, Mr Kenny today insisted he did not take umbrage at the question, but will not be speaking about the issue on foreign trade trips.

“Well now for your information, I didn’t take umbrage at all. I came here on a trade and investment mission to meet with the Canadian prime minister to discuss the opportunities of CETA that work both ways,” he said.

“That’s the purpose of my visit. And I don’t intend to discuss the question of leadership or the future of the Fine Gael party when I’m on a trade mission or investment mission to Canada.”

When pressed that he has addressed the issue on previous foreign trips, Mr Kenny was adamant that he was not talking about it.

“Matters of Fine Gael are internal to Fine Gael. I’m here officially on a trade and investment mission to Canada. And I don’t propose to discuss anything to do with leadership when I’m on this trade mission. Thank you,” he said.

“No, I’ve been very clear with my parliamentary party about this.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny also expressed confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in the wake of her controversial appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“I still retain full confidence in her to do her job and expect her to do that. I would point out we have put in place the Independent Policing Authority, GSOC with enhanced powers, an independent Garda inspectorate and the minister for justice is very anxious to see that every week measures are taken that will deal with the many challenges that An Garda Síochána face,” he said.

Mr Kenny was also asked whether he saw the possibility of a united Ireland in his lifetime, and said while it is possible, he does not see it happening any time soon.

“I could say I don’t know how long anyone is going to live but the opportunity politically is now in situ and was in situ from the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

“So I don’t see that happening certainly in the immediate future but that is the opportunity that does exist but it would take indications of a poll being successful and there would have to be transitional arrangements made because there are two different jurisdictions, two different judicial systems, education systems and the cost that would be inherent in it. But at least the groundwork is there.”

During a speech at the Irish Canada Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Mr Kenny likened Brexit to an “accident, a car crash on a freeway”.

“We don’t like it, we don’t want it but we will deal with it. We will remain at the heart of the European Union,” he said.

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