Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has successfully fended off a leadership challenge by former deputy leader Richard Bruton.

Subsequently members of the Fine Gael front bench that publicly announced that hey had no confidence Kenny, accepted the verdict and declared that they did not have the stomach for another leadership challenge.

The margin of victory was kept a secret and the ballot papers were destroyed immediately but reliable sources within the party said that Kenny won by a meagre 6 votes.

Kenny has postponed the planned front bench reshuffle for next Monday, saying that he wanted to unify the party by appointing people that spoke out against him.

Speaking outside Leinster House after the vote of confidence Kenny said he was "thrilled and very relieved" by the outcome.

"We move on from here as a completely united party even though we had a vote on this issue. Our priority now is to have a general election as soon as possible, to have our party move forward – address the issues, concerns and anxieties that affect the Irish people in a country that is almost bankrupt," he said.

Kenny added that he would take some time to consider the formation of the new front bench.

“I want to take some time to consider all of the talents that we have. I want to talk to lots of people, and I want to put out a team that will reflect the mood of that meeting and the recommendations that were made to me by speakers, both on my own behalf and against the motion of confidence.”

Kenny said there would be no bitterness between himself and Bruton.

"My relationship, as a friend of Richard Bruton’s, is not broken by this. I made that clear before this vote took place, and that still stands.”

During the parliamentary party meeting Kenny made it clear to Bruton that he wanted him to rejoin the Fine Gael front bench.

Having declared that he would not serve on the Fine Gael front bench Bruton said that rejoining the front bench was "not a decision for today".

Other members of the parliamentary party stated that they would be in favour of Bruton returning to his former position as Finance spokesman.