Donohoe, Flanagan backing Varadkar in FG leadership contest

The Leader has since learned organisers have provisionally set their sights on June 9, the week after a new Fine Gael leader is expected to be ushered in.

Mr Kenny stood down as Fine Gael leader at midnight however he will remain as prime minister until the position is filled.

Noonan, 73, oversaw Ireland's exit from a three-year European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout he inherited and its rebound to post the fastest economic growth of any member of the bloc for the past three years.

His rival Simon Coveney, 44, fits the more traditional profile of a Fine Gael leader and is steeped in politics. It lost a quarter of its seats, only returning to power as the senior party in a fragile minority government.

He will continue as taoiseach (prime minister) until the Dáil (parliament) votes on his replacement next month. Fianna Fail agreed a year ago to abstain in key votes to let the minority government run until late 2018.

Roscommon Senator Frank Feighan said he would be supporting Minister Varadkar. The former refers to the way Coveney has raised his profile by trying to tackle a severe housing and homelessness crisis.

A number of Ministers have declared for the Leo Varadkar this morning - including Paschal Donohoe, Charlie Flanagan and Paul Kehoe. It said 13 backed Coveney.

The two frontrunners to be the country's next PM are minister for social protection Leo Vradkar, who is gay and the son of an Indian immigrant, and Simon Coveney, who has served as the defence minister and whose father was also a government minister.

Then they have to convince parliamentary party members they're the right person for the job.

According to Goodbody Stockbrokers, "From a policy perspective, we do not believe a major shift is likely".

Questions will immediately turn to a successor and Ireland's next taoiseach alongside the analysis of Mr Kenny's legacy after leading the country out of a crippling recession, albeit with an agenda of austerity.

In a statement released after the meeting Mr Heydon said: "Under Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, we saw a devastated economy repaired, long ignored social issues addressed, and the rebirth of a self-confident Ireland".

He has held positions as Fine gael party leader ad ministerial portfolios in health, industry and commerce, and justice.

  • Zachary Reyes