Fine Gael ministers have spoken of the “dangers” of political instability caused by a leadership change.
They were responding to a report in yesterday’s Irish Examiner which said Taoiseach Enda Kenny would most likely depart next summer.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, a leadership contender, spoke of the dangers done to the Fine Gael party by leadership issues in the past.
“I think we need to be very careful and just get on with our jobs and deal with the challenges facing the country right now and put the focus there,” she said. “All of us ministers at the moment have very demanding and complex work to be done, and I think the focus should be on that. I think we need to focus on the work that we have to do. There is plenty to be done by everyone. Serious issues to be tackled.”
Asked if she was one of the six ministers referred to in the article as saying Mr Kenny would not be still in office by 2018, she said: “No, I am certainly not.”
She added: “The Taoiseach has made clear what his own view is, and I think the focus should be on him deciding it at the appropriate point, what his intentions are instead of trying to whatever people are trying to do at present — accelerate it or whatever. The Taoiseach has made it clear that he is not leading Fine Gael into the next election.”
Education Minister Richard Bruton said it would be a matter for Mr Kenny to decide when he stands down.
“Look, there is no vacancy. Enda Kenny has said he will go before the next election. The parliamentary party has decided it is a decision he will take,” he said.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar — the perceived frontrunner — insisted talk about Mr Kenny’s successor is “just gossip”. It has been claimed Mr Varadkar has the support of about 30 parliamentary party members.
“I meet my colleagues all the time, that is what people do in politics,” he said. “Everything at this stage is just gossip, but any politician with sense would take any commitment of support with a pinch of salt.”
Speaking in Brussels, Michael Noonan voiced support for Mr Kenny to be taoiseach until 2018 due to the “uncertain economic circumstances” after Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. He said: “I am a strong supporter of the Taoiseach.”
It is accepted within Fine Gael that the two men will step down together. Mr Noonan added: “I think he has made a huge contribution to the security of Ireland and the economic prosperity of Ireland and in the uncertain economic circumstances that we’re in now, with Brexit and the Trump presidency, and populism all over Europe he has an ongoing contribution to make.”
Fine Gael backbencher Jim Daly, who wants a change of leader, says he’s not in a position to back anybody at the moment.
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