Ireland's PM steps down as Fine Gael leader

Enda Kenny will remain prime minister until his successor is appointed early June. He made the announcement at an emotional parliamentary meeting of the centre-right party which he led for 15 years.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Enda Kenny, 66, is credited with steering Ireland out of its economic collapse.

Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny said on Wednesday that he was resigning as leader of the Fine Gael party, kicking off a contest that will see a new leader elected by June 2.
Kenny – who had already said he would not lead Fine Gael into elections due late next year – said he would continue to carry out his duties as prime minister while the leadership contest takes place.
"I will retire as leader of Fine Gael effective from midnight tonight," Kenny said.

Kenny said he would give his successor a "brief but appropriate" time to hold talks with parties and independents propping up the minority administration, "regarding the provision of government for the future".

15 years a leader

Kenny, prime minister since 2011 and the leader of his centre-right party for almost 15 years, is expected to be replaced by a younger colleague - most likely Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, the bookmakers' favourite, or Housing Minister Simon Coveney.

Kenny, 66, is credited with steering Ireland out of its economic collapse, but domestic scandals and a slump at the ballot box saw him come under pressure from within Fine Gael to step aside.

Fine Gael lost seats but narrowly remained the largest party after the February 2016 general election as the austerity imposed to turn around the 2010 economic crash grated with growing numbers of voters.

Kenny has faced criticism over his cabinet's handling of a case involving a police whistle-blower and the government survived a no-confidence vote in February.

AFP, Reuters