Enda Kenny tells Fine Gael he is staying put to aid stability
Taoiseach says ‘a clear head and a steady hand on tiller’ is needed to deal with Brexit
Brexit ‘represents a huge challenge for the European Union itself, and Ireland in particular’, Enda Kenny told the Fine Gael presidential dinner Saturday night. Photograph: AP Photo/Olivier Matthys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has indicated firmly that he has no intention of stepping down as leader in the near future given the range of problems facing the country.
Speaking at the Fine Gael presidential dinner in Dublin Saturday night, he said that “a clear head and a steady hand on the tiller” was required to deal with Brexit and a variety of industrial relations difficulties in the months ahead.
Responding to an introduction by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed who joked about contenders lining up to replace him, the Taoiseach said he still had important work to do.
He said the most significant event since the formation of the present Government had undoubtedly been the decision of the British people to leave the European Union.
“This decision represents a huge challenge for the European Union itself, and Ireland in particular. Nobody should be under any illusion about the scale of the potential implications for this country,” he said.
Mr Kenny said that while Britain’s approach to the Brexit negotiations would not be set out until early next year, the Government had been working hard to prepare for that process.
He told the Fine Gael supporters that in the immediate aftermath of the referendum he had met directly with the new British Prime Minister Teresa May, with Chancellor Merke of Germany, President Hollande of France and the president of the European Council Donald Tusk.
“In these and all other international meetings, I and other members of the Government have stressed Ireland’s unique concerns – the future of the border, the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK, and the preservation of the Northern Ireland peace process.
“Last week I met the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and told him that the future negotiations with Britain must take full account of Ireland’s unique situation.”
Mr Kenny said that to prepare for these negotiations, he had reorganised the relevant Government departments and I have set up a special Cabinet committee on Brexit to coordinate the entire Government’s approach.
“At EU level, all the key decisions on Brexit will taken by the heads of Government in the European Council. I can assure you that I will continue to use this forum to ensure that Ireland’s concerns are not only heard, but also acted on.”
He said that in the light of the international uncertainty arising from Brexit and other issues, it was essential that the public finances were managed very carefully.
“The people of Ireland have made huge sacrifices to help turn the country around. That includes our public service workers, who suffered significant pay cuts in recent years. The Government wants to see their pay levels restored but that restoration must be planned and affordable.”
He added that the Lansdowne Road Agreement was the agreed framework for pay restoration. The money to fund it had been provided and most public sector trade unions had signed up the agreement.
“I would urge those who have not, and are in dispute with the Government, to continue to engage with the relevant departments, with a view to trying to resolve their issues, within the Landsdowne Road framework.”