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  • Enda Kenny will step down as party leader at midnight 
  • He will stay on as Taoiseach as the leadership contest begins
  • The contest is expected to conclude by Friday 2 June when a new party leader will be announced
  • Kenny will still be Taoiseach for a while beyond that as his successor works to put together a new government
  • He’s also due to fly off for trips to the US and Europe at the start of June – finishing up in Belgium on the 7th

 

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has announced his plans to step down from the leadership of Fine Gael.

Our political reporter Christina Finn (@christinafinn8) was at Leinster House for today’s parliamentary party meeting and Daragh Brophy (@DaraghBroph) was liveblogging at TheJournal.ie HQ.

Here’s how events played out:

From Christina Finn: 

Enda Kenny told Fine Gael party members last week that he would address the issue of his leadership at the next parliamentary party meeting.

Well today is that day. The party are due to meet this evening at 5.30pm and the first item on the agenda is the leadership.

So what is he expected to say? Well that is anyone’s guess, but the chatter around Leinster House is that he will give a definitive date for when he will step down as leader.

Others think he could surprise us all and step down today, while others speculate he might stay on until the summer recess.

If he steps down today, the leadership campaign will kick off tomorrow. However, if he gives a specific date, the contest will not begin until the day after that date.

Speaking to sources in both the Coveney and Varadkar camp – both say they are ready to go and are keen to launch their campaigns.

However, one source close to Coveney said today will be about Kenny’s legacy – “it’s not about the campaign today”.

The latest word from Fine Gael sources is that the party meeting is being brought forward to 4.30pm.

At the moment, there’s a much-larger-than-expected crowd gathering for a launch of a report by Independent Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell.

The Taoiseach is set to address the meeting, which gets under way shortly.

pic

While we’re waiting for an announcement from Enda – either now or later – it’s worth pointing out that he’s heading off to Chicago from 4-6 June and also has a trip scheduled to Belgium on June 7.

He also said today in the Dáil that he has another trip planned – to the north inner city.

He said he will go there in the coming weeks with Paschal Donohoe – a local Fine Gael TD – to check in on progress on initiatives launched for the area in the wake of a string of shootings in the past year.

There’ll likely be a period when he’s still fulfilling the duties of Taoiseach, but is no longer Fine Gael leader. A new Taoiseach will have to be voted in by the Dáil.

From Christina Finn: 

Observing the large turn-out for her report launch, Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell quips that she knows that everyone is here as they are really interested in her initiative.

Members of the Taoiseach’s press team are here too.

In case you were wondering, Enda Kenny is launching ‘Finite Lives: Dying, Death and Bereavement. An Examination of State Services in Ireland’.

Earlier on today, Fianna Fáil veteran Willie O’Dea said his party should review its confidence & supply agreement with Fine Gael before agreeing to allow a new Taoiseach be elected by TDs.

“In the event of a new leader being elected to Fine Gael I think we’ll have to have another look at the supply and confidence agreement before we decide to support a government led by that individual,” O’Dea said, according to RTÉ News. 

Certain aspects of the deal were not being honoured by the government, O’Dea said.

Fianna Fail - stock Source: Niall Carson

The nation’s political correspondents, editors and reporters are packed into the room for this report launch.

(This sort of thing wouldn’t normally draw such a crowd.)

The Taoiseach is still speaking about the report, at this meeting.

According to a press release about the project, entitled ‘Finite Lives’: “The report is the first comprehensive analysis of end-of-life issues across all government departments outside health.”

Kenny has now finished speaking.

There had been speculation he would address the leadership issue at this event – but that now looks unlikely.

The parliamentary party meeting starts in 20 minutes.

No mention of tonight’s events over at the Twitter account of Alan Shatter, the former justice minister.

So we can now expect word from Kenny in the next few minutes (though that could well change – based on how long we’ve waited so far).

The parliamentary party meeting was brought forward to a 4.30pm start and the Taoiseach is expected to speak as it commences.

From Christina Finn at Leinster House: 

Fine Gael TDs and senators have all made their way to the parliamentary party meeting.

One junior minister said no one knows what he is likely to say – but he said he believed that the date of departure could be further out than people expect.

One senator, going up in the elevator, popped his head out to some reporters and said ‘déjà vu‘.

So that’s that then.

Enda Kenny will step down as Fine Gael leader at midnight tonight.

He will stay on as as Taoiseach and acting leader as the contest to succeed him gets under way.

Sources at Leinster House have confirmed to our reporter Christina Finn that the parliamentary party will vote for his successor on Friday 2 June – just ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

Councillors and the wider membership will also hold votes.

Here’s 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, 17th May 2017.

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.

From Christina Finn at Leinster House:

Kenny was said to be emotional during the party meeting – which lasted only a few minutes.

“Let the games begin,” he was quoted as saying to the party.

The tribute statements are coming in now…

Under Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, we saw a devastated economy repaired, long ignored social issues addressed, and the rebirth of a self-confident Ireland.

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.

- Chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Martin Heydon TD

It is right that today we pause to reflect, acknowledge and respect the leadership role of Deputy Kenny.

With political skill he brought stability and delivered a Government at a time when voters set our country on a new course. Transition is never easy and as Taoiseach Deputy Kenny responded by taking on board priorities beyond any Fine Gael Manifesto.

As a leader he was always open to change, the successful Marriage Equality Referendum is the greatest example of this.

Enda Kenny is at all times respectful and willing to listen to diverse views. It is a talent and a skill which will serve him well no matter what future path he takes.

I wish Enda, Fionnuala and their family every good wish for the future.

However it is also important in the coming weeks that our plans for children, young people and families are not stalled.

As the only Independent woman in Cabinet I will continue to press on these and other issues.

- Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

How big a deal is today’s announcement? Well, Brian Dobson’s arrived at Leinster House apparently.

Here’s Leo Varadkar’s statement.

It’s quite long – despite the Social Protection Minister (and potential successor to the Taoiseach) being so ‘zen’ last week.

leo1 Source: Brian Lawless

Enda Kenny has been an extraordinary Taoiseach and Fine Gael’s most successful leader ever. After decades of service to our Party and country, we owe him a debt of gratitude.

He brought Fine Gael from the edge of extinction to its current position as the largest party in the State. He brought Ireland from the brink of bankruptcy back on to the road to prosperity.

When elected leader of Fine Gael in 2002, he brought renewal and hope to the party, which was at its lowest ebb. He immediately set about rebuilding. In eight years as Leader of the Opposition, his tireless work saw Fine Gael grow and gain seats in one election after another.

Enda gave hope to a battered and bruised Ireland in 2011. His dedication and determination gave Fine Gael a landslide in that year’s general election. 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.

I’ll never forget the day that Irish democracy was handed back from the Troika, restoring our standing in the world and returning our dignity. It’s incredible to think that we have climbed from those depths and are once again the fastest-growing economy in Europe.

On a personal level, I owe him so much. He appointed me to the Party’s Front Bench following my first election as a TD. I was honoured to accept a Ministerial position from him after the 2011 election. I have learned a lot from Enda, in particular how to lead a team of people with many talents and diverse views.

Against all the odds and in spite of predictions to the contrary, Enda fashioned a Government in 2016. Once again Enda didn’t flinch, and he brought stability to the Dáil, to Government, and to Ireland, at a time when there was no obvious solution. It was a privilege to be directly involved in those negotiations alongside the Taoiseach.

Subsequently Enda faced probably the toughest challenge of his career: that of Brexit. He has tackled this head-on with vigour and determination, and has secured the best possible situation for Ireland in advance of detailed Brexit discussions.

Enda’s legacy will be far-reaching. Above all, he is a kind and decent man, always ready with an encouraging word or a solid piece of advice. He is devoted to family, party and country. I hope sincerely that his expertise will continue to be available to us. But I know that the party, and the country, will always remember him and will always be grateful.

Fine Gael politicians are addressing the media at the Plinth at Leinster House…

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has also sent out a long statement paying tribute to Kenny.

He has been a “phenomenal Fine Gael leader, Taoiseach, politician and parliamentarian,” she says.

Here are the last few lines:

The upcoming Fine Gael leadership contest needs to be about who best embodies the attributes and values that Fine Gael stands for. Who can continue our economic progress, in the right way. And who can continue our social progression.

It’s about which candidate can provide us with a 21st century Just Society.

The candidate whose vision for the country best matches my own, the candidate who can not only manage but can lead, will get my support in the upcoming election.

From 2011 to today, Enda Kenny led governments that brought us stability and growth. They repaired and remade the foundations of our state.

Now it’s time for the next generation of leadership to build on his efforts and create a lasting, sustainable, just society.

There had been speculation that Kenny would come out to the Plinth himself.

But it looks like the main address outside Leinster House will instead come from party chairman Martin Heydon.

The Taoiseach led a “generational change” in the party, he told reporters.

Some statements from the other party leaders…

First, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin:

I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny for his contribution to Irish political life since his first election to Dáil Éireann in 1975, and particularly in his role as Taoiseach and Leader of the Fine Gael party.

One of the fundamental tenets of our democracy is a commitment to public service and the Taoiseach has more than fulfilled that obligation. He has worked diligently for his county, party and country over a long period of time.

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.

I wish him well after he leaves office and I know that Fionnuala and the children will be happy to have much more time to spend with him in the coming months and years.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the entire Fianna Fáil Party I would like to acknowledge and thank Enda Kenny for his years of public service and to wish him good health and best wishes in all future endeavours.

Irish people react to the UK triggering Articke 50 Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Here’s the official statement from Gerry Adams (who was out on the Plinth earlier too):

Following the Taoiseach’s announcement this evening, I would like to wish Enda Kenny, his wife Fionnuala, and their family well. It will be a big a change in all of their lives.

He and I disagree on many political issues, but I acknowledge that he did his best from his perspective.

From Sinn Féin’s perspective, this was not good enough.

In 2011, Mr Kenny came to power with the largest majority in the history of the state. He promised a democratic revolution.

Six years on and his political legacy is dominated by crisis, chaos, and chronic lack of accountability.

There is an ongoing and unprecedented crisis in housing and homelessness.

The health service is in chaos and there is the deep crisis in policing and justice.

The government’s strategy for dealing with the challenge of Brexit, acknowledged as the greatest threat to the economies of this island in generations, is deeply flawed.

There also a clear lack of affinity with the North and a clear lack of consistent strategic engagement on the process of change that is required to sustain the political institutions.

This is a do-nothing government courtesy of the confidence and supply arrangement with the government’s partner in Fianna Fáil.

The reality is that so-called new politics, led by Mr Kenny and the Micheál Martin, isn’t new at all.

As a result, there is a deep paralysis in the body politic.

The reality is that Fine Gael, no matter who leads them, are firmly wedded to the policies that cause so much hardship in the daily lives of ordinary people.

That will not change under Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney or any other contender.

We need a change of Government, not just a change of Taoiseach.

Meanwhile, Brian Dobson has been talking to Fine Gael TDs Paschal Donohoe and Michael Ring down on Kildare Street.

rte Source: RTÉ Six One

Donohoe – who has already ruled himself out of the leadership contest – said he announce who he is backing “soon”.

Simon Coveney’s statement is in…

As leader of Fine Gael Enda Kenny has been a towering figure in modern Irish history and will be recognised as such over the coming days, weeks, months and years. When Enda took over the leadership of our Party we were broken and demoralised. With his vision, determination, positivity and relentless work-rate he led our Party back from defeat and to sustained electoral success, culminating in victory in the 2011 General Election and a record result for our Party.

I am proud to have served in Opposition and then in Government with Enda. I saw at close quarters how skilled and driven he was to succeed for our Party, in Government and for our Country. His record in Government since 2011 will be viewed very positively by historians, not least how he led the restoration of our economic financial independence over that period, which was a landmark event.

But it is not just these high profile moments that I reflect on, I recall the energy and excitement of a number of elections campaigns – any day on the campaign trail with Enda was a lively one; or those early days in Government when the economy teetered on the brink and Enda’s calm and clear headed leadership helped guide us through; or the late nights and long hours trying to construct a new coalition Government in 2016.

It has been an honour to serve with Enda Kenny for almost 20 years now and I wish him, Fionnuala, Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise the very best in the future.

Some international reaction…

Former Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton has said Enda Kenny’s physical fitness helped him to carry out his duties work as Taoiseach.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime Burton said Mr Kenny would often work 14-15 hours per day, but that this came easy to him largely because he was very physically fit.

She said he had it in his capacity to be serious but “he was also able to be relaxed in the midst of challenges, at a very tense time in the country’s history”.

Regarding his tenure in charge – Burton said the failure of health reforms to show dividends was one of the most frustrating issues for Enda Kenny during his time in office.

90240237_90240237 Source: Rollingnews.ie

From Christina Finn (still) at Leinster House: 

The Fine Gael National Executive has said there will be no TV debate between the contenders to take over from Kenny. However, hustings (local meetings) taking place around the country are expected to go out over Facebook Live.

It’s expected there will be four large-scale hustings – in Dublin, Cork and in the West and North of the country.

Sources in both the Coveney and Varadkar camps have said they are both ‘ready to go’ and hit the campaign trail tomorrow.

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