Enda Kenny resigns as Irish Fine Gael party chief

The announcement came a day after Kenny said he would quit, kicking off a succession contest that was confirmed as a race between two younger ministers after other potential candidates stepped aside and colleagues began to pick sides.

In a statement to colleagues in Dublin, Mr Kenny said he was retiring from midnight with his successor to be in place on June 2.

Many consider ministers Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney to be the favourites to fill the vacancy.

He said it had been a "huge honor and privilege.to lead our party for the past 15 years, in opposition and into government on two successive occasions".

MICHAEL Noonan is to step down as Minister for Finance and will not seek a seat in the next General Election nor will he seek a seat at the next cabinet table.

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Thanking those in the Fine Gael party, his constituents and family he announced he would be stepping down with immediate effect.

Fine Gael party chairman Martin Heydon described Mr Kenny as a "compassionate, pragmatic and inclusive" leader.

The party then formed a minority government with independent TDs (members of parliament), with party leader Kenny serving as Prime Minister for the second time.

Mr Kenny is this evening (Wednesday) expected to address the leadership question at a parliamentary party meeting at Leinster House.

"He took the tough decisions and because of those the decisions the country is back to where we are today", she commented.

Mr Coveney is trailing in the early stages of the contest but has the support of Health Minister Simon Harris and around 20 members of the parliamentary party with a large section of the Fine Gael veterans yet to declare.

I will continue to carry out my duties as Minister for Finance until a successor is appointed.

"While over the years we have had our differences on many political and policy issues, I have always appreciated Enda's decency, good humour and approachability", he said.

Enda Kenny and Peter Burke.

The parliamentary party holds the whip hand with 65 per cent of the voting strength, with councillors allocated 10 per cent and rank and file members 25 per cent.

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