Ministers reject media coverage of leadership race

The Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Agriculture have both rejected claims uncertainty over Enda Kenny's future is affecting the business of government

Fine Gael government ministers have rejected suggestions that the ongoing debate over the future of Enda Kenny is affecting the daily business of government.

Mr Kenny is set to clarify his plans at a fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this evening.

Although the Taoiseach has yet to comment on his announcement, he is widely expected to confirm that he will step down as Taoiseach within the next two months.

Although the leadership race is unlikely to be triggered before Mr Kenny visits the White House on St Patrick’s Day, any further delay will be met with dissatisfaction within the party - as well as the possibility of a vote of no confidence.

Speaking this afternoon, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan hit out at the way the leadership question has been covered in the media - and denied the situation was getting in the way of the governance of the country.

“This issue is certainly distracting the media,” he said. “I am getting on with my work, I am not distracted; none of my government colleagues are distracted and it is important that the reality of our work is fully reflected in media engagement.”

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed also rejected the idea the leadership question was paralysing the government - claiming the question was a matter for the Fine Gael parliamentary party and no one else.

Fine Gael Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed speaking to the media at the Annual General Meeting of the Irish Farmers Association, 17-02-2016. Image: RollingNews

“I don’t see the paralysis,” he said. “Even last week in the maelstrom of all this, I had engagement with the Taoiseach on fisheries matters with representatives of the fishing industry, I had cross departmental engagement with other cabinet members and the business of government got on.”

“I see colour pieces in today’s papers talking about the same theme but it is widely at variance with the experience that I have had in my own department and with other government colleagues.”

Minister Creed said it is “inevitable” that some of his government colleagues have been discussed as potential candidates within the public realm but insisted, “it is not impacting at all on doing the business of government.”

Not all of the cabinet is in agreement however with the Communications Minister Denis Naughten warning that the leadership battle will cloud government business if it is not resolved quickly.

“I think it is important that there is a timetable set out in regard to this,” he said. “It will cloud government if this isn’t clarified and I expect the Taoiseach will do that later today.”

The Taoiseach is due to outline his plans to the Fine Gael parliamentary party at approximately 5:30pm this evening.