- 18 May 17
With the decision of Enda Kenny to step down – finally! – as leader of the party with the highest number of TDs in Leinster House, a new Taoiseach is on the way. Here’s an opportunity to check back over our Hot Press interviews with the leading candidates, to see what can be gleaned...
The race is on to become the next Taoiseach!
With the news that Enda Kenny was stepping down as leader of Fine Gael, as of midnight last night, it has become inevitable that Ireland will have a new political leader too. It will finally be up to the Dáil to support the appointment of the new man – or woman – but right now there is only one outcome possible: whoever is the next leader of Fine Gael will also be elected Taoiseach.
The front runners in the race are Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney. Indeed they may well be the only runners.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, who is widely regarded as among the most – and very probably the most – capable member of the front bench, has stated categorically that he will not be running. The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, have both been mentioned as potential candidates.
So far, unlike Donohue, they have refused to rule themselves out – but the smart money says that this is more likely an exercise in positioning themselves to gain the maximum from the schemozzle, and that ultimately it is really a question of around whom they and the other senior party figures might rally.
Who will join camp Leo? And who will hitch their future fortunes to the Coveney flag?
It is an intriguing detail that Leo Varadkar was one of the TDs who set the process in motion to change the way in which the leader of Fine Gael is elected. Along with Lucinda Creighton – no longer a member of the party – he proposed a motion at the Fine Gael Árd Fheis, in 2004, to alter the election process, to give local councillors and ordinary members a say in deciding who would be the leader of the party.
Will that be remembered with gratitude, and give him the lift among the rank and file that might carry him over the line – or will it come back to bite Leo? It is a curious sub-plot to what promises to be a bruising context.
Hot Press has interviewed both of the leading candidates. It is worth having a look back at those interviews now, to see what they reveal about the candidates, personally and politically. It is, as they say, all to play for...
Read our 2015 interview with Simon Coveney here.
Read our 2016 interview with Leo Varadkar here.