Kenny hints he will stay as Taoiseach until NI Executive is formed

Forming a Northern Ireland government ‘fundamentally important’ ahead of Brexit talks

 

Speculation about Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s future continued on Friday as he suggested that he would not step down until a government has been formed in Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York, Mr Kenny said he had a number of priorities on his agenda.

“My first priority is to put in place the executive in Northern Ireland. We have no government or devolved authority in Northern Ireland. I hope that the parties that are elected will accept the responsibility of putting together an Executive within the three-week period,” he said.

This was “fundamentally important” in terms of the Brexit negotiations that were about to commence, he added.

“The voice of Northern Ireland and the voices of Northern Ireland have to be heard through that Executive.”

On the subject of his leadership of Fine Gael, he said: “What I did say to my own party [was] I will deal with this matter effectively and conclusively and that is my intention.

“But I think that these are priorities that take precedence over anything else there.

“You can’t have a situation where you have no leadership in Northern Ireland and where we have to define from an EU point of view . . . the agreed terms of reference for the negotiations.”

Asked when he was going to step down as leader, he said: “I’m not going to answer that. I’ll deal with my own parliamentary party. I spoke to them before I came to New York.

“I’m telling you now that I’ve a number of immediate priorities on my desk when I arrive back tomorrow morning . . . and I intend to start working on those.”

Trump invitation

Mr Kenny also defended his decision to invite US president Donald Trump to Ireland, saying he was “very happy” to extend the invitation.

“In respect of the invitation to the president, it is normal courtesy in our country that if you receive an invitation from somebody you return that invitation at another time. I said to the president I would be very happy to invite him during the course of his presidency.”

He said he had a “very engaging, very constructive” discussion with the US president.

“Donald Trump is the democratically elected president of the United States. Before I came to meet with him I said my intention was to work with... the new administration to the mutual benefit of both countries.”

He continued: “I had a very engaging, very constructive discussion, not just with the president but with the vice president Mike Pence, general John Kelly and other members of his team and we hope to follow through very constructively on those matters.”