Kenny ‘planning’ to lead as Taoiseach into 2020s

Banking inquiry final report will not push back general election date, says chief whip

Enda Kenny is planning to serve a full term as Taoiseach if re-elected and go on to fight another election, according to the Government chief whip.

Paul Kehoe said he had no doubt Mr Kenny would continue his leadership as "a very long-term Taoiseach", adding that he expects a vote transfer pact between Fine Gael and Labour at the next general election.

The chief whip described the Taoiseach as a man with an “abundance of energy and an appetite for leading this country” who he hoped would continue as Taoiseach “well after the next general election”.

"I have no doubt that you'll see Enda Kenny being a very long-term Taoiseach because he's doing an extremely good job for this country and giving people opportunities that no other taoiseach would have given them over the last number of years," Mr Kehoe told RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke.

Asked whether Fine Gael should consider replacing the Taoiseach with Leo Varadkar given Mr Kenny's fall in popularity in recent polls, Mr Kehoe said he did not believe in polls.

Election day

He said on election day the Irish people will be faced with two possible coalitions - Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin or Fine Gael and Labour.

“Do they want Fine Gael and Labour to continue the great job we’ve been doing, or do they want Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin to ruin what we have been doing in a very short space of time?”

Although Labour has not yet confirmed a vote transfer pact with Fine Gael, Mr Kehoe said he had no doubt Tánaiste Joan Burton would want to see the Coalition return to power in 2016.

Asked whether the delay in the final report by the Oireachtas banking inquiry would push back the general election, Mr Kehoe said he expected the banking inquiry to have filed its report by the end of 2015.

Mr Kehoe earlier said in an interview with the Irish Examiner there was a 30 per cent chance the election would held in November 2015. However, speaking on RTÉ Radio, Mr Kehoe said the Government would go its "full stretch into 2016".

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said on Wednesday he would “absolutely support” Mr Kenny’s decision to stay on as leader of Fine Gael in the coming years.

“The person who will principally decide that is Enda himself,” said Mr Donohoe. “As long as Enda retains the ambition and drive to continue as leader of Fine Gael, I’ll absolutely support him in that.”

Whether Mr Kenny remains Taoiseach is “first and foremost” the decision of the Irish people, he added.

“They’ll be voting in the upcoming general election and they’ll be determining who the next government will be - not to mention who the taoiseach will be.”

‘Mutual benefit’

Mr Donohoe also said a vote transfer agreement between Fine Gael and Labour would be “for the mutual benefit of each party”.

Fianna Fáil Senator Darragh O’Brien said Mr Kehoe’s comments showed “arrogance” and said politicians should never assume they will be re-elected.

The Taoiseach told a press conference after the last Cabinet meeting before the summer break in Lissadell, Co Sligo, that the election would take place in 2016 and not towards the end of this year, as has been speculated.

“My intention is to have the election in 2016,” Mr Kenny said in July. “ Everybody else is focused on an immediate election. I am not. We have a revised programme for government which will secure recovery and stability.”

The latest Sunday Independent poll shows Fine Gael has slumped five points, falling to 24 per cent, leaving the party just 1 per cent ahead of Fianna Fáil.

The poll, released at the weekend, shows Sinn Féin still at 21 per cent and Labour gaining 1 per cent, bringing the party to 7 per cent.

The Independents' vote increased by 4 per cent to 24 per cent, with Renua on 1 per cent, the Socialist Party at 2 per cent and the newly formed Social Democrats at 0.5 per cent.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast