BY NOW, ENDA Kenny is used to receiving questions on when he will step down as Taoiseach, from both journalists and politicians.
But he was surprised to get one during an official visit to Canada yesterday – telling an Irish journalist “I can’t believe that you travelled this distance to ask a question like that”.
Although he’s mentioned it a number of times that he will leave, the Taoiseach has avoided answering when he’ll go, or even when he will announce his departure date.
Kenny said he’d step aside after the garda whistleblower controversy earlier this year, but has said he’d stay on to see through talks in the North and the start of Brexit negotiations (which have been delayed because of the election in the UK).
Kenny missed the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this week because of his trip to Montréal to meet with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, where he was expected to be asked about his departure.
When asked by the Irish Examiner’s Daniel McConnell when he would be stepping down as Taoiseach, Enda Kenny seemed to get annoyed.
I can’t believe actually that you have travelled this distance to ask a question like that.
“I have come here to meet with the Canadian prime minister and Canadian business to explore the opportunities that exist across the Atlantic for the creation of jobs and investment and to the benefit of Canadians and Irish people.
“That is my business here. Next question.”
When McConnell explained that the question was being asked on behalf of all Irish media, Kenny replied: “I just said to you I can’t believe you have travelled this distance to ask a question like that.”
Later, a spokesman for Kenny told the Examiner that the Taoiseach had not been angry or had lashed out.
Meanwhile, Trudeau’s footwear was drawing attention online.
The young leader wore mismatched Star Wars socks to his meeting with Enda to mark May the Fourth, (a play on words for the Star Wars mantra, May the Force be With You).
He even tweeted out a picture of his R2D2 and C3PO socks.
Who’s up next?
Back home, members of the Independent Alliance have said they have no preference as to who the next Taoiseach should be as long as they honour the programme for government.
Marking their first year in government at a press conference yesterday in Government Buildings, the group unanimously said they could work with either Leo Varadkar or Simon Coveney – the two front runners in the Fine Gael leadership race.
“I have a great relationship with both men and I wish them well,” said Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, the soon to be the Minister for State at the OPW.
Junior Minister for Skills John Halligan and Junior Minister for Disabilities Finian McGrath said they had an excellent relationship with both men.
Leo or Simon?
Transport Minister Shane Ross said who the next leader of Fine Gael will be is a matter for the party, but did say any changeover would be an opportune time to talk about new ideas.
“We have no intention of going out and aggressively demanding all sorts of new things. It will be an opportunity to refresh and to implement new ideas.”
While he did not specify what new ideas the Independent Alliance have in mind, it’s understood the group will ask for a few extra items for their group when a new Taoiseach is voted in. However, a total overhaul of the government programme is not on the cards.
“It is certainly not to us who is the next leader,” said Transport Minster Shane Ross, who added that they have no intention of making “aggressive” demands.
He said the Independent Alliance are more concerned with implementing what is already in the programme for government, before adding to it.
It’s believed that whoever becomes the next Taoiseach may want to make a few changes in Cabinet.
Speaking to the media yesterday, the members of the Independent Alliance said they are all very happy with their portfolios and don’t expect to be moved from them.
“I am really delighted where I am – I definitely need three years to get some of the things done,” said McGrath.
All the members of the group, excluding John Halligan, said they will be running in the next general election, if and when that is.
“I’m not too sure to be honest, I’ll have to have a think about that,” said Halligan.
With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha