Noonan to relinquish Finance role and retire at next election

Ireland will have a new prime minister in June after Taoiseach Enda Kenny quit as leader of his party.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, who stood alongside Mr Varadkar on Leo Street in north-inner Dublin city centre, said he expects the doctor to be leader for "many, many years".

Minister McHugh said he believed Minister Varadkar would be an outstanding leader of the country who understood issues affecting people right across the State and in particular Donegal.

"Therefore, I will retire as leader of Fine Gael effective from midnight tonight 17th May 2017", he said.

Deputy Peter Burke released a statement at lunchtime today announcing his support for Minister Varadkar in the leadership contest.

"But I know that the party, and the country, will always remember him and will always be grateful".

Leadership hopeful Varadkar, now Minister for Social Protection, visited Donegal last week.

Under party rules, Fine Gael's 73 lawmakers make up 65 percent of the vote with the balance split between councillors and ordinary members.

Varadkar has said he has more support among those yet to declare while Coveney, whose father was a Fine Gael minister during the 1980s and brother is chief executive of foodmaker Greencore, has said the race is "very, very close".

It was a short but historic meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, when an emotional Enda Kenny announced he would be standing down as leader, writes political reporter Elaine Loughlin.

"Leo is a person whom I hold in the highest regard, I believe he has the experience, skill and integrity to provide the leadership our country needs and deserves".

Another senior member said: "The body language of some of his loyal supporters said it all, there were a few teary eyes". "No one deserves it more", he told the Democrat last evening.

Mr Varadkar is expected to formally launch his campaign for the Fine Gael leadership on Saturday.

The regional debates, or hustings, will take place in Ballinasloe, Dublin, Carlow and Cork over four days next week.

"He has shown openness and honesty in his personal life, breaking new ground in Irish politics", he said.

  • Zachary Reyes