Taoiseach would ‘lose authority’ if exit plan set out, Leo Varadkar says

Minister says Regina Doherty’s call for timetable for Kenny’s departure ‘unhelpful’

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said Taoiseach Enda Kenny would be a ‘lame duck’ if he were to set out a timetable for when he intends to step down as Fine Gael leader.  Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said Taoiseach Enda Kenny would be a ‘lame duck’ if he were to set out a timetable for when he intends to step down as Fine Gael leader. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny would lose be a “lame duck” if he set out a timetable for when he intends to step down as Fine Gael leader, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar, the favourite to succeed Mr Kenny, said he did not agree with chief whip Regina Doherty that the Taoiseach should set out a timetable for his departure.

He described such a view as “unhelpful” as it had led to a power vacuum in other countries where leaders had stepped down in similar circumstances.

“When a prime minister has set a timeline, effectively they lose their authority. A Taoiseach without authority is no Taoiseach at all,” he said.

“You then end up with a leadership contest that goes on for months and months and I don’t think anybody wants that at all.

“In the meantime all of us as ministers and Fine Gael TDs have to get down to business and concentrate on keeping the economy strong. That’s what people want to us to do. They don’t want us bickering and politicing for months.”

It is understood Mr Kenny intends to lead Fine Gael for a full term in office but not into the next election, and that he will set out a succession process in due course.

The Irish Times on Saturday reported that Fine Gael Ministers had discussed a contingency plan to carry out a rapid leadership contest to replace Mr Kenny in the event of a snap general election.

Senior party figures are keen not to allow Fianna Fáil to withdraw its support and collapse the minority Government and have a run into an election while Fine Gael seeks a replacement for Mr Kenny.

An Irish Times/Ipsos Mrbi poll earlier this week showed Mr Varadkar was the preferred choice to be the next Fine Gael leaders, ahead of Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

No vacancy

Speaking after the State commemoration to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, Mr Varadkar said the vacancy for Taoiseach does not arise “until he says it does”.

“It is my view that the vacancy should only arise when the Taoiseach says that it should.”

Ms Fitzgerald said the Taoiseach had made it clear how he would leave office. She did not believe that he should be forced by anybody to outline a timetable.

“He has a job to do. I support him in the job he is doing. It is a critical job for the country right now,” she said.

“No doubt in his own time he will make his intentions known. I think it is up to the rest of us to get on with the jobs that we have.”

Ms Fitzgerald said she would be happy to wait for the Taoiseach to make clear what his plans are “in his own time. The focus does need to be on the job we have as a Government.

“It is a minority Government. there s a lot to focus on. The Taoiseach will have his own say about that. There is no vacancy. I do not believe that speculation is helpful at this point in terms of the issues.”