Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has hit back at critics seeking an early commitment from him to step down from his leadership.
He said on Monday that he has “no intention of being diverted” from the task of leading the country.
That included visiting Germany on Tuesday for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Ireland’s close relationship with Britain.
It also includes later this week talks with ministers on finalization of plans for Dublin’s special North Inner City Task Force to deal with an area where there have been several murders this year.
Kenny said in his hometown, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, that his focus was always on securing the future of the country. This was what the people expected of their taoiseach and he intended to deliver on that expectation.
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He added that “for those who might be interested” he would not be diverted from that task and that duty.
Kenny was hitting out at pressure from his own back-benches for an early signal that he would step down following a series of recent gaffes.
They included his reappointment as deputy Fine Gael leader James Reilly who lost his Dail seat in the general election and who is now a member, on Kenny’s nomination, of the Senate.
Enda Kenny under pressure to step down after major misjudgments https://t.co/mXDMuwhGlM pic.twitter.com/lKta4aKvll— IrishCentral (@IrishCentral) July 11, 2016
The misjudgments also included a failure to tell the North’s First Secretary Arlene Foster, in advance of a Dublin meeting, about his plan to propose an all-Ireland forum to discuss the implications of Brexit, Britain’s vote to opt out of the European Union. Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, rejected the proposed forum.
Also, three independent ministers who are in partnership with Fine Gael in government defied Kenny and supported a vote on abortion although the attorney general had ruled the proposed measure unconstitutional. The failure of the three ministers to abide by collective responsibility undermined Kenny’s authority.
But the real pressure for an early signal on when he would step down followed an Irish Times poll last weekend. It showed huge increase in support for Fianna Fail with a rise of nine points to 33 percent, while Fine Gael dropped two points to 24 percent.
Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin called for a new party leader to be in place by September. He said only a change in the Fine Gael leadership would avoid a general election in the autumn.
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However, Kenny’s strike-back on Monday, allied to Fine Gael ministers’ calls for calm, successfully deferred the day when he will be required to announce he is stepping down.
Education Minister Richard Bruton said this is not the time for a leadership challenge and people expect the government to “knuckle down” and focus on confronting problems in areas such as health, housing and education.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said, “Now is not the time for change, now is not the time for instability. We need to work together.”
Supporters expect that Kenny’s comments on Monday, allied to the strong defense by his ministers, will put the leadership issue into abeyance for the present time.