Laois County Council chairman backs Simon Coveney in Fine Gael leadership race

Fine Gael are planning to hold their Longford Fine Gael selection convention next month after Enda Kenny's successor as party leader is announced.

It will bring to an end a six-year spell as Taoiseach and a campaign will now begin to a new Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach before June 2.

Simon Coveney is in Clare today for a number of engagements including the Clare Fine Gael AGM, but his visit here comes as he faces an uphill battle to defeat Leo Varadkar.

Michael Noonan has announced his intention to step down as Finance Minister and that he will not be seeking re-election at the next General Election.

Under Fine Gael rules this timeline would facilitate a two-and-a-half week contest, with voting taking place over the bank holiday weekend.

"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.

Colleagues are counting on a new leader reviving their fortunes after falling marginally behind rivals Fianna Fail in most surveys.

The Mayo TD, first elected to the Dáil in 1975, confirmed his departure at a meeting of the parliamentary party this evening. "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 overseas and saw our worldwide reputation restored and strengthened", she said.

Meanwhile, he has declared that he will continue to carry out his duties as party leader and Taoiseach throughout this internal election process.

Her predecessor David Cameron said Mr Kenny "was a strong leader for Ireland, a great partner for the United Kingdom, and remains a good friend".

She is among four Ministers and four TDs who added their support to Mr Varadkar's campaign to succeed Enda Kenny during the day.

Leo Varadkar has said he is "humbled" by the support he has received in the Fine Gael leadership race so far.

"He stepped in during one of the worst recessions this country has seen, when we were borrowing more than 50% of what we were taking in, when unemployment was up on 15% and when people were leaving in their droves with no hope".

Fine Gael lawmakers and councillors make up 75 percent of the vote, with ordinary members accounting for the balance.

  • Salvatore Jensen