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Ireland's next Taoiseach, ranked from most to least likely

Enda Kenny is in the hotseat now, but how likely is that to be the case after the next election.

four leaders Will one of these or none of these be Taoiseach after the next election? Source:

ALL EYES ARE on Enda Kenny and just when he might call the next general election.

As Taoiseach it his sole prerogative to decide when the election will be and there are various factors that will play into his decision, not least poll numbers, the economy and the mood of the nation.

While the consensus is building that people will be asked to go to the polls next spring that hasn’t stopped the speculation that it will be as soon as November of this year.

Whenever it is held it’s unlikely – though not impossible – that any party will command an overall majority. Coalition-building will require negotiations and decisions on issues like who will lead the next government.

Earlier this year we assessed (just for fun) the political parties and groupings that might make up that next government. Now it’s time for a run down of who might be the next Taoiseach, from most to least likely…

Enda Kenny

enda smile

He’s already on record as stating he wishes to lead Fine Gael to a historic second successive term in government. With those prestigious European jobs now off the table, there’s little doubt Kenny will be leading his party into the next election.

If the coalition can convince voters it is worth a second term then the current Taoiseach will be best-placed to lead the next government, becoming the first Fine Gael leader to win two successive terms in office. On current polls, Kenny is still the most likely occupant of the Department of the Taoiseach after the next election.

Micheál Martin 


The Fianna Fáil leader has already said he is preparing to be Taoiseach and as the leader of the largest opposition party, Martin will likely present the most obvious alternative to Enda Kenny when we head into the election. The former minister has been much-criticised over the last four years and been the subject of several internal rumblings. But Martin will be keen to avoid the ignominy of being the first Fianna Fáil leader not to become Taoiseach.

In a scenario where Fianna Fáil has a better election than the polls suggest – and that has tended to happen – he could be in a position to form and head up a government.  However, that would have to involve either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin, both of which he has ruled out.

Source: Video

Gerry Adams

gerry adams gif

The Sinn Féin leader divides opinion and his controversial past means some could not even countenance the idea of him leading the country. But as the leader of a party that’s increasing popularity is starting to show in elections, Adams could conceivably be the head of the largest party in the country after the next election.

Therefore he would have a mandate to form a government and become taoiseach in what would be perhaps one of the most extraordinary developments in Irish politics. He has deflected questions about whether he, like Martin, is preparing to be Taoiseach but we’ve no doubt he wouldn’t turn it down.

Leo Varadkar


The Health Minister is frequently tipped as a future leader of Fine Gael and will be a likely contender whenever Enda Kenny does decide to step down. But might that happen sooner than we think? There are various scenarios where there is a new Taoiseach in the coming years, including if Kenny decides to step down midway through his second term.

But what if Fine Gael suffers a bad election with multiple seat losses all over the country? Kenny might be weakened and step down, providing an opportunity for an new leader to take the party forward. That new leader might still be in a position to form a rainbow-like coalition with Labour, like-minded independents and maybe some of the smaller parties. Could that new leader be Leo, Ireland’s first gay taoiseach?

Mary Lou McDonald

mary lou mcd

If Sinn Féin has a very good election and becomes the largest party in the state it will be well-placed to form a government, but might the price of power be a change of leader? Any potential coalition partner is likely to come from one of the three main parties, and none of them have any grá for Gerry Adams.

Could a seemingly unlikely coalition deal be struck with either Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Labour if Adams agrees to step down? If he were to do so few observers look beyond Mary Lou, the current deputy leader, as his successor.

Simon Coveney

simon c

Just like Varadkar, the Agriculture Minister is regarded as a future leader of Fine Gael. He definitely doesn’t have the same star power as his cabinet colleague but Coveney might be a more attractive choice for Fine Gael’s rural conservative base. Like Leo, his shot at becoming Taoiseach is dependent on Enda Kenny stepping down.

Frances Fitzgerald

frances fitz

The same is true for this steady hand at the Department of Justice whose star has been on the rise over the past 18 months as a result of her calming influence following Alan Shatter’s tumultuous departure last year.

Fitzgerald is seen as a dark horse in any Fine Gael leadership race but some believe she would be Kenny’s preferred choice of successor. Her potential to become the country’s first female taoiseach depends on many factors, but one of them might be just how much influence the current incumbent will have in any leadership race.

Michael McGrath

michael mcg

It’s unlikely that Micheál Martin would have to step down as Fianna Fail leader after the next election in a situaton where the party is best-placed to form a government. But there is one potential nightmare scenario for Martin where his party enjoys a fantastic election but he loses his seat.

McGrath and Martin share the constituency of death, Cork South-Central. It has gone from five seats to four and already includes heavyweights like Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney and Jerry Buttimer, Labour’s banking inquiry chair Ciarán Lynch and the two Fianna Fáil TDs. Could Martin be squeezed out and the way paved for McGrath to succeed him and lead a Fianna Fáil government?

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Joan Burton


She may be the current deputy prime minister but Labour’s dreadful opinion poll ratings mean it could lose dozens of seats all over the country at the next election.

But what if the junior coalition party enjoys a surge in the build-up to the next general election and regains much of its lost support to become the largest party in the country?  After all, remember that Gilmore for Taoiseach talk in 2011? Stranger things have happened…

Lucinda Creighton


The former Fine Gael minister’s Renua venture may not have set the world alight since its launch earlier this year but it’s still early days.

There’s no doubting her ambition with the party set to run as many as 60 candidates at the election it could capitalise on a surge in anti-establishment sentiment, storm the ballot box and pave the way for Creighton to become Taoiseach. It’s a highly unlikely scenario, but you never know.

Paul Murphy 

paul murphy

The Anti-Austerity Alliance/Socialist TD has certainly built a profile for himself over the last few months with the infamous Jobstown protest and the dozens of prominent anti-water charges demonstrations. A combative performer inside and outside the Dáil, he is seen as retiring Joe Higgins’s natural successor as a figurehead for the leader-less Socialists.

If the AAA can tap into that anti-establishment mood it could surge in the polls and be in a position to lead or be part of a multi-party government at the next election. Could the Dublin South-West TD be at the head of that? Would he want it?

Source: Video

Shane Ross


The putative leader of the Independent Alliance isn’t shy when it comes to seeking publicity but could he seek one of the highest offices in the land after the next election?

Like the aformentioned Renua and AAA, the alliance would have the capitalise on the significant anti-establishment sentiment and hoover up all of that circa quarter of the vote that current leans towards independents.

In that case it could be in a position to form a broad coalition. But does Ross have any interest in being Taoiseach?

Source: Paul Hosford/

Read: Ireland’s next Government, ranked from most to least likely

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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