Fine Gael leadership hopeful Leo Varadkar has welcomed comments by newly returned Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he would remain as leader for the whole term of Government.
Mr Varadkar said Mr Kenny’s comments that he would serve a full term would help “reduce speculation” about a leadership contest and allow the Government focus on its work.
Mr Kenny yesterday spoke about the pending junior ministerial appointments, his intentions for his Seanad nominees, and how long he would remain as Taoiseach.
He said: “I’ve always said that my intention would be to serve the full term but not to lead the party into the next general election.”
His commitment to serve at least three, if not five years was met with mixed reactions. Some in Fine Gael had thought Mr Kenny may step aside sooner.
A number of senior party figures are tipped to succeed him, including Housing Minister Simon Coveney, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.
The latter yesterday welcomed Mr Kenny’s commitment to serve a full term and said this would actually benefit the Government.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Mr Varadkar said that he was “glad to hear” the news.
“It will help to reduce speculation about a leadership contest and allow us to focus on our job which is to secure our economy, spread the recovery, and improve the lives of citizens,” he said.
Fine Gael sources insisted the comments from Mr Kenny showed he was now “back in control” of the party. “Those who thought he would stay short-term are wrong,” said one person close to Mr Kenny.
The Taoiseach also responded to reports that Fianna Fáil would try to block government policies, a situation Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin insisted his party had a right to do.
Things would “settle down” and there would be an “attitude change” from the Government to the opposition benches, according to Mr Kenny.
“So it’s a brave new world, in the sense of a very different kind of Dáil,” he said. “I hope that working together, in a new way for team Ireland, that the decisions made by Government and being implemented will be for the interests of the people and their benefit, that’s what new politics is about.”
Mr Kenny, speaking in Castlebar to RTÉ News, said he had “over 70 names” on his desk for the 11 nominees he will shortly put in the Seanad.
Mr Kenny hinted that he may not, unlike the previous Seanad, appoint mainly Independent candidates this time. “It created difficulties, I have to say, in voting terms towards the end of that period,” he said.
He signalled that he would try to represent different areas in the Seanad with the nominees.
Mr Kenny also signalled that his appointment this week of junior ministers, 10 of whom are expected to be from Fine Gael, would ensure they had niche roles.
“So that those who are appointed will have clearly defined roles and responsibilities given to them statutorily and not just appointed as ministers with no real focus on what it is that they should be doing,” said Mr Kenny.
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