Ireland's PM steps down as Fine Gael leader

As Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced his resignation May 17, two politicians were quickly announced as possible successors, including Indo-Irishman Leo Varadkar, now serving as Minister for Social Protection.

But at a parliamentary election a year ago, Fine Gael suffered a backlash from voters who felt the recovery was passing them by.

The two challengers were left to fight it out as Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Education Minister Richard Bruton ruled themselves out of the race.

As the only Fine Gael government TD in this constituency, I believe it is important for the people of this area to have access to the taoiseach and for me to have a good working relationship with the candidate.

Fine Gael is considered a center-right political party, one that takes liberal positions on several social and economic issues.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny conceded defeat on 27 February following elections that saw the governing coalition punished by voters tired of austerity, leaving the eurozone country in political limbo with no clear victor.

Noonan also said he will not stand for re-election as a member of parliament.

Athlone Senator Gabrielle McFadden has come out in support of Simon Coveney in the Fine Gael leadership battle, but her party colleage in Westmeath, Deputy Peter Burke, is backing Leo Varadkar.

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Prime Minister Theresa May last night paid tribute to Enda Kenny as a strong and consistent friend to the UK.

He told his party he would remain as leader for a "brief but appropriate period" to facilitate a leadership contest.

The other is Simon Coveney, the housing minister, who is the son of former Fine Gael minister Hugh Coveney.

He added that he will "continue to carry out my duties and responsibilities as taoiseach" until his replacement.

He was appointed by outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Finance Minister in March 2011.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, the contest, due to be concluded on June 2.

Leo Varadkar, 38, may appear an unlikely front-runner in what is still regarded as a socially conservative, relatively homogeneous country.

"I also believe Minister Varadkar will help stabilise our country, deal with the challenges of Brexit and help Donegal and the border counties in the months and years ahead".

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