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Jetting off: Enda's 'last lap' mission of diplomacy and negotiation starts today

The Taoiseach has a busy schedule ahead of him.

AFTER STARING DOWN the barrel of a heave, Taoiseach Enda Kenny satisfied Fine Gael TDs at last night’s parliamentary party meeting by stating he will deal with the leadership issue when he returns from the US after St Patrick’s Day.

The Taoiseach’s message to the meeting, which lasted less than 10 minutes, was greeted with a standing ovation in the room.

However, before the issue resurfaces Kenny has a full schedule of diplomatic events to deal with.

First up, he’s jetting off to Brussels (weather permitting) for a series of meetings in relation to Brexit. He is expected to highlight Ireland’s concerns arising from the UK’s decision, including Northern Ireland and the peace process, with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Brexit-related meetings

The Taoiseach will also meet with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker today.

Kenny is expected to emphasise the importance of an “orderly and constructive” negotiation process that protects both EU and Irish interests.

This day next week (2 March), he’s back to Brussels for more Brexit-related meetings – this time with European Council President Donald Tusk, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and lead negotiator Michel Barnier.

No sooner as he landed back in Ireland, the Taoiseach is to return to Belgium for the much-anticipated European Council meeting where UK Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to formally trigger Article 50, signalling the start to Brexit.

White House visit 

After all that Brexit talk, Kenny will travel to the US on 15 March, for a two-day trip to Washington DC.

Kenny will present US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrocks at the White House, before travelling to New York, where he will celebrate St Patrick’s Day, and perhaps take in the parade.

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It’s believed the US trip will be extended to other cities, but the Taoiseach will have to be back before 25 March as he is due to attend a meeting of EU heads in Rome for the 60th anniversary of the Rome treaty.

After that, it’s off to Malta. He will attend the European People’s Party Congress from 29-30 March.

In early April, Kenny is due to attend yet more Brexit-related meetings and in mid-April he is off on a trade mission to Germany.

A busy time ahead for the Taoiseach – but also an important time in which leadership contenders can get their campaigns on track.

Read: The contenders for the Fine Gael leadership, ranked from most to least likely>

As it happened: Enda says he doesn’t want to see commuters discommoded by bus strike>

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