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Explainer: How does Fine Gael go about electing a new leader?

Enda’s on the way out – here’s what happens now.

ENDA KENNY’S TENURE as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach is drawing to an end this evening.

He has finally outlined a timeline for his departure, telling his party colleagues he will step down at midnight.

Kenny will stay on as Taoiseach during the leadership contest, which begins tomorrow.

The contest is expected to conclude by Friday 2 June – just before the bank holiday weekend – when the party will announce a new leader.

Long goodbye

Enda Kenny resignation Source: Niall Carson

Keen not to be seen to be ‘pushed out’ of the top job in Irish politics, for some time now the Taoiseach has been refusing to say when exactly he would step aside.

He told voters he would not seek a third term as Taoiseach in advance of last February’s general election. And, since last summer, some party members have been vocal in stating they want a clear indication when he would be stepping down.

The Taoiseach, who is also the longest-serving TD in the Dáil, faced down the threat of a motion of no confidence and chose to ignore calls from some of younger members of the party who took to the airwaves to say his position was untenable.

However, in the background of all this, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, the apparent front-runners to take his job, have been in election-mode for some time now.

He is stepping aside, what does this mean?

Well, basically we will have another Taoiseach leading the country fairly soon.

Every party has its own way of selecting its leaders – Sinn Féin got some heat over the lack of transparency around the appointment of Michelle O’Neill in the North, while Labour’s Alan Kelly took issue with not being able to contest for the leadership within his own party.

Each party follows its own rules. There hasn’t been a leadership contest in Fine Gael for quite a long time, so let’s dust off the rule book.

What are Fine Gael’s rules? 

Candidates must be members of Dáil Éireann and must be nominated in writing by members representing at least 10% of the parliamentary party.

This all has to be done within seven days of the vacancy arising.

Meanwhile, the Executive Council of the party (the group that takes core organisational decisions for the party and is elected at the party’s Ard Fheis) will begin to organise the election.

The group of around 30 people, which includes some TDs and registered party members, make arrangements for the campaign.

Who gets to vote in this leadership election?

The position of leader of the Fine Gael parliamentary party is determined by the electoral college system.

It’s made up of the parliamentary party members (TDs, senators, and MEPs), members of the party (people who are registered as Fine Gael members) and councillors.

Each group has a different voting weight, which is as follows:

  • Parliamentary party 65%
  • Party membership 25%
  • Councillors 10%

No member shall be entitled to vote more than once (as you might imagine).

Enda Kenny resignation Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

How do they vote, are there polling booths?

Each member eligible to vote will be issued with a ballot paper in a manner approved by the Executive Council. Members cast their vote at polling centres on the date fixed by the council.

When is polling day?

According to the rules, polling day and times of polling are determined by the National Executive but shall not be later than 20 days after a vacancy in the position of leader arises.

However in exceptional circumstances, the Executive Council, in consultation with the chairperson of the parliamentary party, may extend this time.

Councillors vote on the same day and at the same venues as the party membership, while parliamentary party members cast their votes at a special parliamentary party meeting convened by the chairperson (due to be held Friday 2 June).

Then what?

Traditionally speaking, once there is a new party leader, the sitting Taoiseach would vacate his office in an orderly fashion, at which point the Dáil would then have to elect a Taoiseach by voting in the chamber.

The Dáil is in recess the week after the June Bank holiday, so it’s expected a vote for Taoiseach will be held on their first day back, Tuesday 13 June.
So, there you have it.

Watch this space.

Read: An unfortunate place to sit, Enda – but photos like this are harder to avoid than you might think>

Read: Charleton Tribunal will examine allegations of ‘inappropriate contacts’ between gardaí and Tusla>

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