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Tuesday 17 October 2017

'I didn't get everything right', says Enda as he signs off as Taoiseach on day of emotion

Enda Kenny waves as he leaves the Dail to travel to Aras an Uachtarain to tender his resignation. Photo: Collins
Enda Kenny waves as he leaves the Dail to travel to Aras an Uachtarain to tender his resignation. Photo: Collins

Enda Kenny admitted he did not get everything right, but said he always did what "I believed was best" as he stood down after six years and three months as leader of the country.

The Mayo TD became emotional after he addressed the Dail for the final time as Taoiseach yesterday, taking just seven minutes to end his lengthy stint as head of the Government.

"This has never been about me, it's been about the challenges and opportunities this country has faced," he said.

"I have not got everything right but my motivation was always what I believed was best."

He then addressed his colleagues, saying: "I wish you all good health to continue the work dealing with the challenges ahead."

After a short speech Mr Kenny was greeted with a warm applause by TDs from all parties and political groups.

As he sat down he was visibly moved and could be seen to wipe away tears.

He then made his way to Aras an Uachtarain, where he formally announced his resignation as Taoiseach to President Michael D Higgins.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin called Mr Kenny an "Irish patriot" in the course of a warm and good-humoured personal tribute.

Mr Martin said the outgoing Taoiseach was courageous to take over the Fine Gael party leadership, face down the leadership heave against him, and then win the 2011 General Election.

He said that Mr Kenny had given a masterclass to colleagues in how to conduct themselves in the last few months, adding that he managed his exit from the top job "at his assigned pace".

He said Mr Kenny's place in history is assured. On behalf of Fianna Fail, he wished the all the best to Mr Kenny and his family.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams praised the outgoing Taoiseach as "the greatest leader Fine Gael ever had".

He said that, while he often disagreed with Mr Kenny, it was also clear that he always did his best.

"I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had - and indeed meetings you have not had," Mr Adams joked.

The Sinn Fein leader also cited Mr Kenny's governments' shortcomings in health, education and social policy. However, he wished Mr Kenny, his wife and their children, all the best for the future.

Disappointed

As Mr Kenny said his final goodbyes, it was business as usual for the Fine Gael party and its new leader, Leo Varadkar.

The Dublin West TD - to be announced as Ireland's new Taoiseach today - has warned TDs that many of them will be disappointed by his ministerial appointments, as there simply are not enough jobs to keep everybody happy.

However, he asked those who feel let down to stay the course because the party will have a bright future.

He used the same meeting to announce that his leadership rival Simon Coveney is to take over from Senator James Reilly as deputy leader of the party.

The move led to immediate speculation from colleagues that Mr Coveney is set to lose out on the position of Tanaiste in today's Cabinet reshuffle.

"Leo was definitely laying the ground for disappointment and for the most part people seemed to accept that," said one source who was at the meeting.

"Whether that changes when the jobs are announced is another question."

Mr Varadkar also warned his colleagues not to book summer holidays yet, as he may request the Dail to sit a week later than expected.

It was anticipated that the House would break for the summer on July 13, but the new leader said extra time may be required to pass legislation.

In a statement after the party meeting, Mr Varadkar paid tribute to his colleague, Mr Coveney.

"Simon and I will work together to guide the participation by Fine Gael in the Government, and reform and modernise the Fine Gael party in the years ahead," he said.

Mr Coveney, who won the popular vote in the leadership contest, said he was "honoured" to take up the role.

"I look forward to working with the new leader of Fine Gael, Leo Varadkar, and believe that I can bring a strong focus and energy to the party from the grassroots members through to local councillors, and up to the parliamentary party," he said.

Mr Coveney is understood to be angling for the job of Foreign Affairs Minister in the reshuffle but the current minister, Charlie Flanagan, has been making a strong argument that the political upheaval in Northern Ireland and the UK means he should remain in the position.

Expectation

Mr Varadkar has not briefed any ministers on their promotion prospects - but there is a high level of expectation within the party that outgoing Mr Kenny's constituency colleague Michael Ring will take a seat at Cabinet.

"There has to be a minister from the west of Ireland and Michael Ring looks to be in pole position," said a minister.

Regina Doherty and Eoghan Murphy are the two other names being tipped for promotion, while Paschal Donohoe is almost certain to take the reins in finance.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin is waiting to see the make-up of the new Cabinet before deciding on his own Fianna Fail frontbench reshuffle.

"If he does reallocate portfolios we have ideas on that ourselves," Mr Martin said.

"Some of them are in our manifesto."

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