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Enda Kenny has defied calls from some of his own MPs to set a date to step down as Ireland’s prime minister after a meeting of his centre-right Fine Gael party to discuss his increasingly contested leadership.
Instead, Mr Kenny told his party’s MPs and senators on Wednesday that he would deal with the question of his leadership – and therefore his future as the country’s Taoiseach, or prime minister – after he returned from his annual visit to the White House on March 17.
Mr Kenny has come under intense pressure from some senior ministers and other party colleagues in the past few days to step down after his fragile minority coalition was caught up in a public furor over a policing scandal that has caused disarray in the Irish government.
Martin Heydon, chairman of Fine Gael, said after Wednesday’s unexpectedly short parliamentary party meeting that the Taoiseach had said he would address his future “effectively and conclusively” next month, after visiting US President Donald Trump for the St Patrick’s Day celebration in Washington.
“He has already said he will not lead Fine Gael into the next general election. He reiterated that position again tonight,” Mr Heydon said. Fine Gael would meantime proceed “in a united fashion,” he added.
Mr Kenny’s future has dominated political life in Dublin to the exclusion of almost every other issue over the past few days. His meeting with his party colleagues was an attempt by the Taoiseach and his advisers to make his exit as dignified as possible.
Mr Kenny has been prime minister for six years, and won a second successive term at the helm of a coalition government led by Fine Gael after last year’s general election. However, the party performed poorly in the vote, and many of his MPs blamed Mr Kenny for a lacklustre campaign that misjudged the public mood.