Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Science | By Cecil Little

Kenny quits after Irish police whistleblower scandal

The prime minister of Ireland has said he is stepping down as leader of the Fine Gael party, kicking off a succession contest between two younger ministers.

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.

"I would like to pay tribute to the Taoiseach for his dedication and service to his country and party over many, many years".

But Minister Coveney says despite this the campaign isn't over yet.

While Mr Varadkar is expected to personally launch his bid on Saturday, Mr Coveney fired the opening salvo on the steps of his party headquarters and declared he was not going to engage in sound bites and glib put-downs.

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According to the Irish Times leadership tracker, Varadkar holds 31% of the available support from the party TDs and senators, while Coveney commands just 17%.

Kenny announced his plans at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party at Leinster House this afternoon, with his retirement effective from midnight tonight.

Ms Fitzgerald decided against standing for the leadership, as did Minister for Education Richard Bruton, who immediately said he would be supporting Mr Varadkar.

Mr Kenny, who was elected taoiseach in 2011, tendered his resignation in March, but has been acting prime minister since then.

Earlier on Friday the Waterford TD John Deasy, who is personally close to both candidates, came out in support of Mr Varadkar.

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The decision comes following a disappointing General Election result previous year, which saw Kenny's party fail to secure a majority in the Irish Parliament and criticisms about the way in which he has handled a police scandal. "That landed us as local councillors in the local elections in 2014 with a hill to climb.It was tough campaign but I wouldn't blame that on Enda", he said.

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

The current housing minister has also been in charge of several portfolios including agriculture and defence.

"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".

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