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Monday 29 May 2017

Kenny will remain as Taoiseach for talks on Brexit and North

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny is determined to remain as Taoiseach while negotiations surrounding Brexit and the North proceed.

In his weekly address to the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Mr Kenny once again declined to set out a timeline for his departure.

No other TD addressed the issue, despite serious disquiet over Mr Kenny's refusal to provide greater clarity on his plans.

The Fine Gael leader spoke of the importance of forming a power-sharing assembly at Stormont and added that he will remain as leader to see out the start of the Brexit negotiations - but did not specify which phases of these talks he intends to be involved in.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 next Wednesday, setting in train a two-year period for which leaders can negotiate the UK's divorce from the EU.

A key date for these talks is April 29, when EU council members meet in Brussels to discuss their strategy. At last night's party gathering, Mr Kenny indicated he would address his leadership after he returns from this meeting.

Transition

He had previously said he would deal with the issue "conclusively" following his visit to the US for St Patrick's Day.

Sources say Mr Kenny was particularly vague about his departure and did not say when during the Brexit negotiations he intends to step down.

However, he did say he would ensure the transition for the leadership is orderly and that he wanted to leave a strong foundation for his successor in terms of the Brexit negotiations, which many EU leaders believe will last longer than two years.

Meanwhile, one of the front-runners in the race to succeed Mr Kenny yesterday said Fine Gael is "pretty relaxed" about when he steps aside as leader.

In a further sign that the Taoiseach will be allowed to remain in office until the summer, Simon Coveney, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, said delays to the triggering of formal Brexit negotiations has "extended things somewhat".

Trust

Mr Coveney said all of Fine Gael "expected" that Mr Kenny will be at the April 29 Brexit meeting.

"There's nearly more of an obsession outside Fine Gael than in it. I think the party is pretty relaxed at the moment," he told Pat Kenny on Newstalk radio.

Mr Coveney said there was merit in sending the incumbent Taoiseach to the initial Brexit meetings as he has been preparing for the negotiations for more than a year.

"The actual deal is done based on trust between senior political figures," he said.

The Cork South Central TD, who is seen as the leadership front-runner along with Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, said the Taoiseach will not want to take the focus away from key issues for government such as housing and economic growth.

"I think what's more important here is how do we keep a functioning and stable government going through this process. I think that is foremost in the Taoiseach's mind."

Asked about Mr Kenny's performance during his recent trip to the United States, the minister said he offered "global leadership" in dealing with Donald Trump.

"I think he delivered extraordinarily well," he said.

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