Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney back Enda Kenny's remarks

The two most likely contenders to replace Enda Kenny as leader have welcomed the Taoiseach’s comments, despite claims those calling for him to resign quickly have backed down on the issue.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Simon Coveney supported Mr Kenny’s eight- minute speech after the parliamentary party meeting, saying a process is now in place to resolve the standoff.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Varadkar said he believes it has been settled. On Saturday he said “everyone is waiting to hear from the Taoiseach” and the leadership question had become destabilising.

“The Taoiseach has settled the matter. The leadership will be dealt with effectively and conclusively after the St Patrick’s Day visits.

“I think everyone isrelieved that we have avoided damaging divisions,” he said.

His main contender in the leadership race, Mr Coveney, said Mr Kenny has shown authority and that he is equally happy with the outcome of the meeting.

On Sunday he had said he wanted Mr Kenny to confirm he will address the issue after he returns from the White House.

Yesterday he said “more or less what I was hoping would happen did happen”.

He said he was very happy with the Taoiseach’s speech.

It is understood neither leadership contender will move against Mr Kenny before his return from the White House next month, and will allow him space to implement a timeline for his departure.

While it has been widely accepted Mr Kenny carried the room in his speech last night, it has also been noted he did not give a definitive timeline for when exactly he will step down and referred to a number of European engagements which remain in his diary.

Some parliamentary party members who spoke on condition of anonymity said that critics of Mr Kenny who failed to address the matter at last night’s meeting have effectively been forced to back down. However, the suggestion was strongly rejected by sources close to the separate camps, who said Mr Kenny has convinced TDs, senators and MEPs of his intention to step aside after his White House visit.

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