Former Minister of Agriculture enters the race for the Fine Gael leadership

Former Minister of Agriculture enters the race for the Fine Gael leadership

Supporters of Varadkar last night claimed their man has the charisma to be the country's next leader - as Simon Coveney insisted: "People are not looking for a Taoiseach with an X factor".

He said he did not see any major failings with Minister Varadkar and his choice was more down to Minister Coveney's attributes and work in the past.

He posed for photographs on Leo Street in Dublin with Paschal Donohoe, and confirmed the worst kept secret in Irish politics.

"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.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said Mr Kenny "did his best from his perspective" but his "political legacy is dominated by crisis, chaos, and chronic lack of accountability".

And he said he was happy with the campaign so far: "There's a long way to go yet...certainly looking forward to getting the campaign going around the country to the members and councillors".

"As the political landscape continues to shift, at home and overseas, his forthright style and ability to effect change, makes him the best placed candidate to deal with the challenges facing us".

Minister Dara Murphy suggested that Simon Coveney has the qualities needed to lead Ireland.

Kenny, dismissed as a political lightweight before leading his party to its best ever election result in 2011, built up a close rapport with fellow European Union leaders alongside Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who a number of Fine Gael lawmakers expect will also stand down following the leadership contest.

The veteran politician, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, led the party for 15 years and has been at the head of two governments for more than six years.

Mr Varadkar has already secured the public endorsements of around 35 members of the parliamentary party.

If elected party leader, Mr Varadkar said he wants to reach out to those who are not supporting the party and he also wants to make it a campaigning party.

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