Irish Prime Minister decides to resign as leader of the Fine Gael party
Herald Globe - Thursday 18th May, 2017
Enda Kenny steps down as Taoiseach, will remain as interim party leader until successor is elected
Kenny has been Taoiseach for six years now since 2011
Kenny has faced pressure from his party to resign following his handling of An Garda Síochána scandal
DUBLIN, Ireland - After months of speculation about the future of Fine Gael leadership, following a meeting with party lawmakers on Wednesday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that he would be stepping down.
Kenny said he would resign as the leader of the Fine Gael party at midnight, paving way for his replacement as Ireland’s head of government.
Kenny, who has led the center-right Fine Gael for 15 years and has been Taoiseach for six years now, said that he would remain as interim party leader until a successor is elected by June 2.
After a successor is elected, Kenny said he would stay as head of government for a “brief but appropriate period” while his designated successor holds talks with parties and independents propping up the minority government.
For months, speculations have been rife that Kenny would be stepping down and in February this year, reports noted that Kenny would face a motion of no confidence from his own party.
He had earlier indicated that he would deal with the question of his leadership “effectively and conclusively” post his St.Patrick’s Day visit to the U.S. in March.
However, with the U.K. triggering Brexit and political scenario in the Northern Ireland changing - Kenny’s clarification was withheld.
Earlier in the day, Kenny indicated that he would offer the much-awaited plan for the future and address questions over his leadership at a meeting of his Fine Gael parliamentary party later the same day.
Over the last few months, Kenny has been under pressure to resign from factions within his own party that are dissatisfied with his leadership.
Further, his leadership has been undermined following widespread criticism of his handling of a series of scandals involving An Garda Síochána.
With multiple inquiries under way, senior officers are facing allegations that they tried to smear a whistleblower who raised concerns over corruption in how motorists' penalty points were being recorded.
Irish public service broadcaster, RTE earlier noted that Kenny will lead a two-day trade mission to the United States early next month and will attend a World War One commemoration in Belgium as Taoiseach in June.
The trips in June, confirmed by his department, would be his final trips as Ireland’s Taoiseach.
Kenny said in a statement that it had been a “huge honor and privilege ... to lead our party for the past 15 years, in opposition and into government on two successive occasions.”
He said, “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.”
Kenny, a former teacher born in Mayo is the longest-serving member of the Irish parliament.
Amongst his achievements as the country’s Taoiseach, Kenny is credited with leading Ireland through a difficult recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis, which hit the debt-fueled “Celtic Tiger” economy particularly hard.
He not only brought the country out of recession, but is also credited with driving down the national debt, but with an austerity agenda that brought big cuts in welfare, health, education and policing.
He also won praise for his backing for a historic referendum on gay marriage, apologies for victims of clerical abuse and his willingness to stand up to the Vatican, and legislating for abortion in limited circumstances.
Paying tribute to Kenny, Cliona Doyle, chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party said, “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.”
However, Kenny was criticized for an inability to convince the public on water-metering and charges, painful tax hikes, unprecedented homelessness and a series of damaging police corruption crises.
Meanwhile, Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president, said Kenny “did his best from his perspective,” but added that his “political legacy is dominated by crisis, chaos, and chronic lack of accountability.”
Following several years of austerity, in last year’s election, weary voters turned to independents and protest parties, leaving Kenny atop a fragile coalition.
The biggest challenge facing Kenny’s replacement would be to lead Ireland, which is the only EU country to share a land border with the United Kingdom, during complex Brexit divorce negotiations.
Currently, the two frontrunners to be the country’s next Taoiseach are minister for social protection Leo Varadkar, and Simon Coveney, who has served as the defence minister.
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