Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister since 2011, said on Wednesday that he would step down, first as the leader of his party and then, once a successor is chosen, as prime minister.
Mr. Kenny, 66, has been under pressure from within his party, Fine Gael, over his handling of a long-running corruption scandal involving Irish police misconduct. He hinted in March that he would step down soon, and his announcement on Wednesday made it official, effective at midnight.
— Enda Kenny (@EndaKennyTD) May 17, 2017
Fine Gael lawmakers and other party members must choose a new leader by June 2, followed by a vote in Parliament for a new prime minister (known in Ireland as the taoiseach); Mr. Kenny will stay on as caretaker until then.
Mr. Kenny drew attention during a St. Patrick’s Day visit to Washington, where he seemed to reproach President Trump, raising the subject of the estimated 50,000 Irish people living in the United States illegally who would be at risk if Mr. Trump keeps his campaign promise to round up undocumented immigrants.
“It would remove a burden of so many that they could now stand in the light and say, ‘Now I’m free to contribute to America as I know I can,’ ” Mr. Kenny said in March, his voice briefly choked with emotion. “That’s what people want.”
Ireland’s two largest political parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are both center-right. Fine Gael currently leads a minority government under an agreement with Fianna Fail, which remains officially in opposition but effectively wields a veto.
The main contenders to succeed Mr. Kenny are Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney. Mr. Varadkar, a Dublin physician, is currently the minister for social protection; he would be the country’s first openly gay prime minister and the first of South Asian ancestry. Mr. Coveney, the minister for housing, planning, community and local government, belongs to a politically prominent family from Cork in the country’s southwest.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Ed O’Loughlin