Enda Kenny will resign as Fine Gael party leader and as Ireland’s taoiseach effective 2 June. He has served as the Republic’s prime minister since 2011. He is the longest serving taoiseach of his party, which has more often been in minority opposition to Fianna Fáil.
The Mayo-born Kenny, 66, signaled his intentions months ago, but the 17 May announcement caught Irish political observers off guard. His leadership has suffered from bumbling a plan to institute national water charges, and the handling of a long-running police misconduct scandal.
Still, Kenny leaves a solid legacy. Here’s Stephen Collins writing in The Irish Times:
His crowning achievement was to lead the country out of the financial crisis that brought it to the brink in 2010, and preside over a government that transformed it into the fastest growing EU economy for the past three years.
Kenny’s mixture of political skill, sheer stubbornness and incredible stamina enabled him to achieve what many deemed impossible, but he never managed to win the level of public popularity achieved by some of his less successful predecessors.
His successor will have to deal with Britain’s coming withdrawal from the European Union, which could mean the return of a hard border with Northern Ireland. At the same time, the Republic’s new leader will have to navigate growing calls for the island’s political reunification.
Other big issues include a potential 2018 referendum on whether to repeal Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion, and whether to allow the country’s diaspora to vote in national elections.
Fianna Fáil could refuse to allow Kenny’s successor as party leader to also follow him as taoiseach. That would mean another national election.