Speculation on the future leadership of Fine Gael has resurfaced after Enda Kenny said he would speak to his party “soon” on the matter.
The Taoiseach attended an EU leaders weekend summit in Brussels where he secured backing for a special clause allowing the North rejoin the EU in the event of reunification. European leaders also agreed ground rules for the Brexit talks, which will see issues around Britain’s withdrawal prioritised before trade and a future relationship with London.
Mr Kenny last month pledged there would be an “orderly transition” to succeed him. He told TDs and senators he would stay in office to see the beginning of the Brexit negotiations.
Crucially, he said he would deal with the issue of his leadership after this weekend’s summit. Some took this to suggest a leadership contest would begin in early May.
However, asked in Brussels whether other EU leaders at the meeting knew this was his last meeting as leader and whether he was congratulated, Mr Kenny replied: “This was [French president] Francois Hollande’s last meeting and everyone wished him well.
"Everyone expressed gratitude to him for all the work he has done over the last five or six years. As for me, I’ll be talking to my party soon.”
Mr Kenny will this week visit Canada on a trade mission and the following week is expected to host a meeting of the European People’s Party in Wicklow.
His statement on the leadership, while not clarifying the timeline, did not rule out him staying on until the next EU summit in June where further Brexit talks will continue.
The Government expects the negotiations to begin in earnest then, when the British general election is over. Mr Kenny though would not take further questions on the issue.
Some Fine Gael party sources say they would like a new leader in place by the June summit, before politicians break for the summer, and so that Mr Kenny’s successor can become acquainted with other leaders.
Former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes told Newstalk the leadership changeover should not involve a “long goodbye”.
Mr Dukes, who has a vote on the new leader, blamed the paralysis in Irish politics on the “ragbag” in the current Dáil, dismissing suggestions the disorder was linked to Mr Kenny’s premiership.
Fine Gael figures familiar with contenders to succeed Mr Kenny say they expect him to clarify his position either next week or the week after, where he may speak to the Fine Gael parliamentary party in Leinster House.
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