Coveney vows to fight on in face of Varadkar's early lead

"Enda Kenny was a courageous and passionate leader who showed true strength and leadership skills when this country needed it most", said Deputy Peter Burke, as he paid tribute to his party leader.

"I want to assure people that throughout this internal process, I will continue to carry out my duties and responsibilities as Taoiseach in full", he said.

Mr Kenny stood down as the party's leader at midnight, but will stay on until his successor is appointed.

He did not disclose the reason for his resignation, but it had been expected.

Quoting our article, Cllr Doyle said: "I have a huge amount of respect for both Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar".

He added "Simon Coveney has also seen his priced halved into 3/1 from 6/1 to be Taoiseach after the Next General Election and judging by the momentum behind the Cork native over the past 24 hours, he certainly can not be ruled out".

"He is the most substantial and capable politician of my generation", Mr Donohoe told Newstalk.

Varadkar's rival Simon Coveney, 44, fits the more traditional profile of a Fine Gael leader.

Enda Kenny - who had already announced he would not lead Fine Gael into the election - said on Wednesday he would remain prime minister during the contest, due to be concluded on June 2, and subsequent talks with government officials backing the government.

Coveney officially launched his campaign yesterday, saying that he would be a strong and stable leader of the party.

His departure has been long anticipated after the party returned to power a year ago in a fragile minority coalition, which is dependent on the support of the opposition party Fianna Fail.

Athlone's Mayor, Cllr John Dolan, said he was not publicly declaring his support for either candidate.

"He introduced the social welfare increases in the last budget and more importantly as an urban TD he introduced the social scheme for farmers and fishermen".

Other members of the parliamentary party have signaled they too will make their intentions known.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Surgeon described Mr Kenny as a "good friend to Scotland".

"He has also made a substantial contribution to Limerick, and as minister I found him to be a constructive and supportive colleague in Cabinet".

  • Leroy Wright