Enda Kenny may stay as Taoiseach until June, say supporters
‘It would be daft for him to step down in the middle of Brexit talks,’ says FG source
Taoiseach Enda Kenny told reporters in New York in Friday that Brexit and Stormont ‘are priorities that take recedence over anything else’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Supporters of Enda Kenny in the Fine Gael party believe he should stay on as Taoiseach until the summer, given British prime minister Theresa May’s delay in formally triggering Brexit negotiations.
The Taoiseach has not given any indication as to when he will step down from his position, other than to say he would definitively address the issue upon his return from his trip to the United States.
Speaking in New York on Friday, Mr Kenny told reporters that the separate talks on Brexit and on forming a Northern Ireland executive “are priorities that take precedence over anything else” including the Fine Gael leadership.
There is a view shared by many Fine Gael TDs and Senators the leadership transition will not now take place until the EU Council agrees the terms of the divorce settlement with Britain.
However, Ms May is not now likely to trigger Article 50 until the end of March, rather than at the beginning.
A council meeting was scheduled to be held on April 8th where leaders would discuss the terms of departure. However, given the delay, there is little likelihood that EU leaders will be in a position to do so by April 8th. That council meeting could be postponed until after Easter, perhaps to the end of April.
A number of well-placed sources within Fine Gael said that Mr Kenny might not now resign until May, with one supporter saying it might not be until after the June summit.
“It would be daft for him to step down in the middle of such sensitive negotiations,” said this source.
That view was based on the probability that the 27 EU leaders will only formulate the final terms for the departure settlement with Britain at the EU Summit at the end of June.
However, others who are seen as politically close to Mr Kenny doubted that it would happen so late, with one saying that “nobody really knows the date other than Enda Kenny himself”.
However, Fine Gael TDs who believe Mr Kenny must go were sceptical of such a relaxed time-line for departure. A supporter of Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, said that his departure would not “have anything to do with the EU”.
Another Minister said that the first anniversary of this government on May 6th might be a more logical date and wondered if the parliamentary party would tolerate a further five or six weeks.
One of Mr Kenny’s strongest supporters, Minister of State for European Affairs Dara Murphy said he was resolutely of the view that Mr Kenny should stay until the Brexit terms have been finalised, even if that happens in June.
“Given Enda Kenny’s experience and the fact that he is the one who has led the political negotiations, it is absolutely vital that the same team stays in place, especially the leader of the team,” he said.