Varadkar "extraordinarily patient" on Kenny's leadership

The Social Protection Minister says he is "very happy” with Enda Kenny’s leadership and will not be setting any deadlines on his reign

Varadkar "extraordinarily patient" on Kenny's leadership

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar speaks to the media at the GPO in Dublin today, 23-03-2017. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

One of the front-runners to become Ireland’s next Taoiseach has insisted he is “very happy” with Enda Kenny’s leadership and will not be setting any deadlines for when he should step aside.

Mr Kenny told the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party yesterday that the issue of his leadership will be dealt with after the European Council summit on Brexit on April 29th.

The Taoiseach said he wanted to be in place as negotiations on Brexit get underway – leading some commentators to speculate that a leadership contest could be triggered in the first week of May.

That timetable would make it late-May at the very earliest before a new Fine Gael leader - and Taoiseach - is in place.

Speaking this morning, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said he is "extraordinarily patient" and very happy in his current job.

“Certainly I am not going to be involved in setting any deadlines,” he said. “I am extraordinarily patient. I have a really interesting job in the Department of Social Protection, which I am really enjoying.”

He said his department is currently focused on driving down unemployment, improving benefits for the self employed, expanding social insurance and improving living standards.

“You will [soon] see some of the things that we have been doing in the last couple of months starting to take effect, so I am very happy with the job that I am doing and very happy with the ongoing leadership of Enda Kenny,” he said.

Minister Varadkar’s comments echo those of his leadership rival, Housing Minister Simon Coveney - who told Pat Kenny yesterday that there was “more obsession outside of Fine Gael than in it at the moment” regarding the leadership question.

He said the majority of the party was “pretty relaxed” and had always expected Mr Kenny to remain in place for the Brexit summit.

Minister Coveney said he was “not in any rush to push anybody” out of office, adding that he trusts the Taoiseach to make a judgement call as to the best time to facilitate a change of leadership.