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Irish premier to address his political future after St Patrick's Day

Irish premier Enda Kenny has told party colleagues he will outline plans for his political future after St Patrick's Day.

Speculation has been mounting for weeks about the Taoiseach's timeline for standing down with a number of Cabinet colleagues being tipped to takeover.

Mr Kenny - Ireland's longest serving TD (MP) - has seen off leadership heaves before but vowed last year he would not contest the next general election as the leader of his Fine Gael party.

An ongoing controversy over the treatment of a Garda (police) whistleblower, which has resulted in the setting up of a public inquiry, threatened to topple his minority-led administration in recent weeks and brought the question of his leadership centre stage again.

As rumours abounded in political circles about a move against him within his own ranks, Mr Kenny said he would deal with the issue at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting in Dublin's Leinster House on Wednesday evening.

A number of sources at the meeting said he told TDs and senators that he would address his ongoing leadership effectively and conclusively after March 17, when he is travelling to Washington to meet with Donald Trump.

In a long-standing tradition, the Taoiseach visits the White House on St Patrick's Day to gift a bowl of shamrock to the sitting US president.

Mr Kenny gave a short speech and was applauded afterwards, without any debate on the matter. The Taoiseach also did not give any timeline for his departure.

Martin Heydon, Fine Gael's chairman, claimed the party would proceed in "a united fashion".

"The Taoiseach has addressed this issue and he will tell us of his intentions after his trip to the US next month," he said.

"He has already said he will not lead Fine Gael into the next General Election.

"He reiterated that position again tonight.

"He has told us he will outline his intentions effectively and conclusively shortly after his return from the US."

Mr Heydon said there are "international challenges" - with the UK leaving the European Union - and "a potentially changing European frontier" that the Irish government would be focusing on in the weeks ahead.

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