Sports Minister Michael Ring has re-ignited the debate over when Taoiseach Enda Kenny will step down, saying his leader will serve a “full term” if Fine Gael returns to power.
Mr Kenny’s constituency colleague made the prediction as he warned ambitious ministers they are wrong to position themselves as future leaders before an election and should wait “10 or 15 years’ time or whenever it is we’re looking for a party leader again”.
A political crisis erupted within government circles last summer after chief whip and Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe told the Irish Examiner the Taoiseach “will serve another five years and more”.
After uproar within sections of Fine Gael and the opposition over accusations of an ‘endless Enda’ era, Mr Kenny confirmed he will step down before 2021, with party sources suggesting he may resign as Taoiseach in 2018 to allow for a presidential run.
However, in recent months he has appeared to backtrack, telling The Last Word on Today FM on Wednesday he is not tired of the role. Speaking to the Irish Examiner in a pre-Fine Gael ard fheis interview in which he also said the general election should be run “at the end of February” instead of March as the “phoney war” has already begun, Mr Ring said he believes Mr Kenny will serve a “full term”.
“I think he’ll be staying the full term. I don’t think Fine Gael as a party or people in the party should be speculating on leadership battles when we’re fighting a general election, and if we win the general election we’ll have a Taoiseach who’s been endorsed by the people.
“He is the Taoiseach. We should be supporting him, not talking about when he’s going to retire,” he said.
Asked if people discussing the leadership credentials of Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney or Frances Fitzgerald are wrong to do so with an election imminent, Mr Ring said “of course they are” and that “some young guys who came into politics in the last election don’t remember where Fine Gael was in 2002 and the work we all had to put in to rebuild this party”.
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