LEAVING OFFICE Taoiseach Enda Kenny in his office in 2013. Pic: Mark Condren
Castlebar TD calls time on 15-year career as Fine Gael leader
ENDA Kenny, Mayo’s longest-serving TD and Fine Gael’s longest-serving Taoiseach made the surprise announcement this evening that he is stepping down as party leader, effective from 12 midnight tonight.
The Castlebar man has kept party colleagues and political opponents guessing about his future since the formation of the current government, and in typical Kenny style, he caught everyone off-guard with his announcement of an immediate departure at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this afternoon.
In another surprise development, the election of a new leader of the Fine Gael party will take place relatively quickly, on June 2, leaving likely candidates, Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald just 15 days of campaigning. Kenny will now continue his duties in an acting capacity until his successor is known.
The chairperson of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, Martin Heydon TD, has this evening praised Deputy Kenny’s role as leader of Fine Gael.
“Under Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, we saw a devastated economy repaired, long-ignored social issues addressed and the rebirth of a self-confident Ireland,” he stated. “His leadership of Fine Gael since 2002 has brought us to our most successful period in government as the largest Party in Dáil Éireann for the last two terms.
“His leadership style was compassionate, pragmatic and inclusive, building a strong team which he led with energy and enthusiasm. 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.
“On behalf of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, I would like to thank Enda Kenny for his remarkable service to our country and our party. I would also like to acknowledge the sacrifices made by his wife, Fionnuala, and their children, Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise, which allowed Enda to be the great leader that he has been.”
What’s next for Enda?
Here in Mayo, speculation will now be rife with regard to what Deputy Kenny’s next political move will be. He has been linked with a number of top jobs within the European Union, but as of yet, it is unclear if taking one of these jobs would necessitate his resigning of his Dáil seat, and thus, forcing a bye-election in the county.
The soon-to-be former leader told a local meeting of Fine Gael last year that he intended to serve another term in the Dáil, but that seems an unlikely option, and rumours have been circulating in recent months about who his likely replacement will be.
At 26, his daughter Aoibhinn is now two years older than her father was when he first took his seat in the Dáil in 1975, succeeding his own late father, Henry. The Kenny family have held a seat in the Dáil now for an amazing 63 years, and the likelihood is they will want to continue this remarkable dynasty.
It is also believed that Senator Paddy Burke has his heart set on contesting a Dáil election, having been a member of the Seanad since 1993, and he would probably be the most likely candidate should Aoibhinn Kenny decide not to enter politics.
Enda Kenny’s statement in full:
Last year I indicated that I would not lead the Fine Gael Party into the next General Election. I have decided to implement that decision today. Therefore I will retire as Leader of Fine Gael effective from midnight tonight, May 17.
I will continue to carry out my duties as Party Leader in an acting capacity, until my successor is elected through the Fine Gael Leadership election process.
I have asked that the Fine Gael Executive Council expedite this process and to have it concluded by close of business on Friday June 2nd.
I want to assure people that throughout this internal process, I will continue to carry out my duties and responsibilities as Taoiseach in full.
I intend to provide a brief but appropriate period for my successor to engage with groups and members supportive of Government, and with other Parties in the Dáil regarding provision of Government for the future.
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.
I thank all our members, past and present for that privilege.
I thank all my loyal constituents and supporters in Mayo for their unstinting loyalty since 1975, and for their support for my family previously in providing unbroken service to the County in Dáil Éireann since 1954. I thank my personal staff for their commitment over many years to their duties. I especially want to thank my wife Fionnuala, our children, my siblings and their families for their understanding of my work, and indeed for accepting the many intrusions of politics into family life in the interest of building our Country. I could not have engaged as I did without that base.
See next week’s Mayo News for more on the resignation of Enda Kenny.