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Enda Kenny announces resignation as Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny announces resignation as Fine Gael leader
(1 day later)
Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, who helped steer the country out of recession following the global financial crash, has announced that he is stepping down. Kenny told his Fine Gael colleagues in Dublin that he was retiring as party leader at midnight on Wednesday, and that he would continue to serve as PM until a successor was appointed by 2 June.Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, who helped steer the country out of recession following the global financial crash, has announced that he is stepping down. Kenny told his Fine Gael colleagues in Dublin that he was retiring as party leader at midnight on Wednesday, and that he would continue to serve as PM until a successor was appointed by 2 June.
Kenny has been under growing internal party pressure over his failure to secure a majority government in the general election in 2016 and his handling of a series of crises in the Irish police. He stayed in his post after the election thanks to the support of a range of independent MPs and the tacit backing of Fine Gael’s major rival opposition party, Fianna Fáil.Kenny has been under growing internal party pressure over his failure to secure a majority government in the general election in 2016 and his handling of a series of crises in the Irish police. He stayed in his post after the election thanks to the support of a range of independent MPs and the tacit backing of Fine Gael’s major rival opposition party, Fianna Fáil.
The 66-year-old former teacher, born in Mayo, is the longest-serving member of the Irish parliament, having first been elected in 1975. He has led the centre-right Fine Gael party for 15 years and been prime minister since 2011. Since then his Fine Gael-lead coalitions have survived years of political turbulence and mass protests against austerity.The 66-year-old former teacher, born in Mayo, is the longest-serving member of the Irish parliament, having first been elected in 1975. He has led the centre-right Fine Gael party for 15 years and been prime minister since 2011. Since then his Fine Gael-lead coalitions have survived years of political turbulence and mass protests against austerity.
The contest to succeed Kenny will start on Thursday, far earlier than expected. The two frontrunners to be the country’s next PM are the minister for social protection, Leo Varadkar, who is gay and the son of an Indian immigrant, and Simon Coveney, who has served as the defence minister and whose father was also a government minister.The contest to succeed Kenny will start on Thursday, far earlier than expected. The two frontrunners to be the country’s next PM are the minister for social protection, Leo Varadkar, who is gay and the son of an Indian immigrant, and Simon Coveney, who has served as the defence minister and whose father was also a government minister.
In what was described as an emotional parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Kenny is reported to have asked: “Is it OK if I go now?”In what was described as an emotional parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Kenny is reported to have asked: “Is it OK if I go now?”
When Kenny came to power in 2011, Ireland was still suffering from a deep recession caused by the global financial crash and the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy. He is credited with leading the country out of recession and driving down the national debt, albeit with an austerity agenda that saw big cuts in welfare, health, education and policing.When Kenny came to power in 2011, Ireland was still suffering from a deep recession caused by the global financial crash and the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy. He is credited with leading the country out of recession and driving down the national debt, albeit with an austerity agenda that saw big cuts in welfare, health, education and policing.
He told his party he would remain as leader for a “brief but appropriate period” to facilitate a leadership contest. “I would like to stress the huge honour and privilege that it has been for me to lead our party for the past 15 years, in opposition and into government on two successive occasions,” Kenny said in a statement. “I thank all our members, past and present, for that privilege.”He told his party he would remain as leader for a “brief but appropriate period” to facilitate a leadership contest. “I would like to stress the huge honour and privilege that it has been for me to lead our party for the past 15 years, in opposition and into government on two successive occasions,” Kenny said in a statement. “I thank all our members, past and present, for that privilege.”
Varadkar said Kenny had “given hope to a battered and bruised Ireland in 2011”. “His dedication and determination gave Fine Gael a landslide in that year’s general election,” he said. “But more importantly, he brought this country back from the brink of economic collapse, and offered political stability when countries across Europe were staring into the abyss.”Varadkar said Kenny had “given hope to a battered and bruised Ireland in 2011”. “His dedication and determination gave Fine Gael a landslide in that year’s general election,” he said. “But more importantly, he brought this country back from the brink of economic collapse, and offered political stability when countries across Europe were staring into the abyss.”
Martin Heydon, chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, also pointed to Kenny’s stewardship of the economy. “Having inherited a country and an economy that was decimated by mismanagement, Enda’s strong leadership and ability to make hard decisions was recognised both at home and abroad and saw our international reputation restored and strengthened,” he said.Martin Heydon, chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, also pointed to Kenny’s stewardship of the economy. “Having inherited a country and an economy that was decimated by mismanagement, Enda’s strong leadership and ability to make hard decisions was recognised both at home and abroad and saw our international reputation restored and strengthened,” he said.
Micheál Martin, the Fianna Fáil leader, described his rival as decent. “One of the fundamental tenets of our democracy is a commitment to public service, and the taoiseach [PM] has more than fulfilled that obligation. He has worked diligently for his county, party and country over a long period of time,” he said.Micheál Martin, the Fianna Fáil leader, described his rival as decent. “One of the fundamental tenets of our democracy is a commitment to public service, and the taoiseach [PM] has more than fulfilled that obligation. He has worked diligently for his county, party and country over a long period of time,” he said.
“While over the years we have had our differences on many political and policy issues, I have always appreciated Enda’s decency, good humour and approachability.”“While over the years we have had our differences on many political and policy issues, I have always appreciated Enda’s decency, good humour and approachability.”
The Irish transport minister, Shane Ross, one of the independent MPs that Kenny has had to rely on to remain in power in his second government, described him as “a true statesman” who had the interests of his country “at his core”.The Irish transport minister, Shane Ross, one of the independent MPs that Kenny has had to rely on to remain in power in his second government, described him as “a true statesman” who had the interests of his country “at his core”.
Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president, said Kenny “did his best from his perspective”, but added that his “political legacy is dominated by crisis, chaos, and chronic lack of accountability”.Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president, said Kenny “did his best from his perspective”, but added that his “political legacy is dominated by crisis, chaos, and chronic lack of accountability”.
Outside the economic recovery, Kenny’s major achievement was in shepherding the country from a mono-Catholic state into a 21st-century European republic. Although a devout Catholic himself, he publicly backed the campaign for gay marriage in Ireland’s marriage equality referendum in 2015. After the electorate massively endorsed gay marriage, Kenny hailed the outcome as a “message of pioneering leadership” from Ireland.Outside the economic recovery, Kenny’s major achievement was in shepherding the country from a mono-Catholic state into a 21st-century European republic. Although a devout Catholic himself, he publicly backed the campaign for gay marriage in Ireland’s marriage equality referendum in 2015. After the electorate massively endorsed gay marriage, Kenny hailed the outcome as a “message of pioneering leadership” from Ireland.
A fluent Irish speaker, former Gaelic footballer and mountain climber, Kenny also drew praise for his attack on the Vatican in 2011 for downplaying the child abuse scandal that had engulfed the Catholic church in Ireland.A fluent Irish speaker, former Gaelic footballer and mountain climber, Kenny also drew praise for his attack on the Vatican in 2011 for downplaying the child abuse scandal that had engulfed the Catholic church in Ireland.
• This article was amended on 18 May. The chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party is Martin Heydon. • This article was amended on 18 May 2017 to correct the name of Martin Heydon, the chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.