Enda Kenny officially announces his resignation as Taoiseach

Opposition leaders and cabinet colleagues have praised the outgoing Taoiseach

Enda Kenny officially announces his resignation as Taoiseach

Enda Kenny. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Enda Kenny has this afternoon officially announced his intention to resign as Taoiseach.

The former Fine Gael leader chaired his final cabinet meeting this morning, before making his official announcement in the Dáil.

He then heard tributes from leaders of the opposition parties before holding one final meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

He is travelling to Áras an Uachtaráin to hand in his resignation - which will pave the way for Leo Varadkar to take over as Taoiseach after a Dáil vote tomorrow. Mr Kenny will remain in the role at a caretaker capacity until his successor is confirmed.

In a speech in the Dáil chamber, Mr Kenny said: "This has never been about me. It has always been about the problems and the challenges that the people in our country face.

"I am the first to acknowledge that I have not got everything right, but I can honestly say that my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interests of the Irish people."

Paying tribute to Enda Kenny, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said: "We have fought against him in tough elections and debated with him on every available occasion. There is no useful purpose to be served by going over those disputes.

"Throughout his time in elected office and in government he has been a proud representative of his community, political tradition and country. He is today, as he always has been, an Irish patriot and democrat."

Labour's Brendan Howlin said he would not present a 'hagiography' of his former coalition partner, adding: "I still recall a strength that in many ways has later come to define Deputy Kenny as Taoiseach. That, quite simply, is his boundless enthusiasm."

Gerry Adams, meanwhile, criticised Fine Gael's "abject failures" in government, while acknowledging: "I did not see eye to eye on most political issues with the Taoiseach, but I have always found Enda to be friendly on a personal level."

Cabinet tributes

Speaking before this morning's meeting, Enda Kenny said it was business as usual for the Government, despite the fanfare.

He told reporters: "While it might be a milestone for me personally, in the context of the country that's irrelevant. It's business as usual - we have many challenges up ahead.

"I'm proud and privileged that I've been able to serve as Taoiseach for all these years."

Charlie Flanagan said he had been very privileged to serve in cabinet under Enda Kenny.

The Foreign Affairs Minister praised the outgoing Taoiseach for convening what he called a "war cabinet" in 2011, as well as bringing public finances "back to order".

Minister Flanagan observed: "He was always very mindful of another person's view, and his attempts at all times very successful ensuring to bring people together.

"He was always in very good form - I don't think I've ever seen Enda Kenny in poor form [or] negative mode."

Health Minister Simon Harris, meanwhile, said he is "extraordinarily grateful to Enda Kenny for the opportunities he's given me to serve", as well as his "stellar work" as Taoiseach.

A Dáil vote on choosing Mr Kenny's successor is set to take place tomorrow.

While the different parties can nominate their own candidate, the new Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has secured the backing of the Independent Alliance.

Fianna Fáil will abstain from voting, effectively guaranteeing Minister Varadkar's election as Taoiseach.

The new head of government is also expected to reveal his cabinet choices tomorrow.

Speaking this morning, Minister Harris - who backed Simon Coveney to become party leader - said: "[Leo Varadkar] has the potential to be a superb leader of this country.

"Matters in relation to the cabinet are obviously entirely a matter for him. I don't envy the decisions he has to make."

He added: "I haven't had any formal conversations in relation to this [...] I'll entirely respect whatever he decides to do."