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Enda Kenny Resignation Sparks Fine Gael Leadership Contest

Enda Kenny Resignation Sparks Fine Gael Leadership Contest

AN Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced that he is to stand down as leader of the Fine Gael party at midnight tonight, triggering a formal election between Minister Simon Coveney and Minister Leo Varadkar to replace him.

Fine Gael deputy leader Dr James Reilly said: " I think Enda Kenny has proved himself to be one of the outstanding politicians of this century and the last".

Minister McHugh made no comment on the forthcoming leadership contest that is set to follow the announcement.

Mr Kenny will continue to perform his duties as Fine Gael leader in an acting capacity until a successor is appointed on 2 June.

He added that he will "continue to carry out my duties and responsibilities as taoiseach" until his replacement.

Kenny received a standing ovation from his colleagues and was described as "very emotional" by those present.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr Kenny had been a "strong and consistent friend" to her country.

Other achievements during the 66-year-old's time in government include the legalisation of gay marriage.

Fine Gael party chairman Martin Heydon said:"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 global reputation restored and strengthened".

"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 global reputation restored and strengthened", he said.

However, voters have seen painful tax hikes under Mr Kenny's administration - with unprecedented levels of homelessness and a series of crises involving police corruption and negligence.

In recent weeks his campaign to clampdown on welfare cheats has been fiercely criticised in some quarters, including by a former social welfare inspector, and opponents who questioned the level of fraud in the system. An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Minister Richard Bruton have both refused to rule themselves out to date.

Mr Kenny delayed his resignation on a number of occasions this year. The remaining 25 per cent is allocated to party members.

And he is now expected to pay final visits as Irish prime minister to the Chicago on a trade mission and Belgium for a First World War commemoration early next month before leaving his post.