Belfast Telegraph

Enda Kenny makes final Dail appearance as Taoiseach before resigning

Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he hopes his legacy adds to the quest for freedom and independence for Ireland.

Mr Kenny formally announced his long-awaited resignation as leader of the minority government after six years in the role.

"This has never been about me... it has always been about the problems and challenges that the people of our country face," he said.

The veteran Fine Gael politician hosted a cabinet meeting for the final time in Government Buildings before taking to the floor of the Dail for a valedictory address.

He will later meet President Michael D Higgins in Aras an Uachtarain to discuss his departure.

In a relatively brief statement to the Dail, Mr Kenny recalled the will of Michael Davitt, the republican and agrarian campaigner who founded the Irish National Land League in the 19th century, who said he left "kind thoughts" to his friends, to others forgiveness and to Ireland "my undying prayer" for "absolute freedom and independence".

"I hope that in the two governments I have led that we have made a modest contribution towards that ambition," Mr Kenny said.

The outgoing Taoiseach secured the job in early 2011 and led a coalition government with Labour as Ireland exited the multi-billion euro bailout brought on by the crippling banking and economic collapse.

He oversaw several years of painful austerity as part of attempts to stabilise finances.

Among his other legacies will be leading the country when same-sex marriage was introduced and attempts to bring closure to victims of clerical abuse.

Mr Kenny reflected on his career.

"For my own part I am the first to acknowledge I have not got everything right. But I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed to be in the best interest of the Irish people," he said.

Mr Kenny said he understands people's disillusionment with politics.

But he added: "I really do believe that politics is work worth doing, a noble profession. Despite the many scandals and disappointments, I believe that the vast majority of people elected to this House are here because we've an interest in and a love for our communities and our country and we wish to make a difference."

Mr Kenny urged more respect among politicians.

He added: "We can argue vehemently the merits of issues or measures without questioning each other's motives or intent.

"Politics is always about people and government is always about making decisions."

Mr Kenny resigned as Fine Gael leader in May to make way for his successor.

Although long-awaited, the transition of power has been relatively smooth with Leo Varadkar securing resounding support in a leadership contest, including huge backing among his parliamentary colleagues.

He was confirmed as the new Fine Gael leader in the Mansion House in Dublin on June 2.

Mr Varadkar, the first openly gay cabinet minister and the son of an Indian doctor, will be nominated as taoiseach in the Dail on Wednesday before he travels to meet Mr Higgins in Aras an Uachtarain, where he will be given his seal of office.

Mr Kenny paid tribute to the Labour Party who supported his first coalition government.

And he noted backing from the main opposition party Fianna Fail as it supports the current minority government.

Mr Kenny said he would have preferred to leave quickly and quietly after confirming that he was to visit the president.

"The prospect of making a speech or listening to them, either of glorification or flagellation, is not something that I really relish," he added.

Mr Kenny, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, took over as Fine Gael leader in 2002 when the party suffered near annihilation at the polls.

He is credited with steadily rebuilding the party across the country and after surviving a leadership heave in 2010 he led it to its best ever election result in early 2011.

Mr Kenny is also the only Fine Gael leader to be re-elected taoiseach.

Among some episodes that will be remembered are his unprecedented attack on the Vatican over clerical child abuse cover-ups.

But the last two governments will also be marked out for the failure to comprehend and reverse the fear over water charges and the inability to react quickly and efficiently to a spiralling homelessness crisis which has left unprecedented numbers of families living in hotel rooms.

Mr Kenny's tenure will also be known for the welter of controversies which have rocked the Garda, none more so than the controversial departure of commissioner Martin Callinan who announced his retirement after a late-night call to his house by a senior civil servant.


From Belfast Telegraph