Laois County Council chairman backs Simon Coveney in Fine Gael leadership race

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York

Following Enda Kenny's resignation as party leader from midnight last night, the Westmeath Independent contacted a number of local Fine Gael representatives to ask whether they wanted Minister Coveney or Minister Varadkar to become the next Taoiseach.

A number of politicians have chosen to back Coveney in this election process, including the Minister of Health, Simon Harris, and Dr. James Reilly, who has chose to step down from his position as deputy leader of the party.

A tally of declared votes puts the Social Protection Minister 12 ahead within the parliamentary party, despite Mr Coveney's camp believing it would win this section of the electorate.

The Taoiseach has resigned as leader o the Fine Gael party.

Michael Noonan has announced his intention to step down as Finance Minister and that he will not be seeking re-election at the next General Election.

Thanking those in the Fine Gael party, his constituents and family he announced he would be stepping down with immediate effect.

The contest to succeed Kenny will start on Thursday, far earlier than expected.

Fine Gael leadership contender Leo Varadkar.

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The address will take place at lunchtime in the city centre where the Taoiseach will also meet members of the Global Irish Network and clients of Enterprise Ireland.

"I believe Leo Varadkar will make an excellent Taoiseach for all the people of the Republic of Ireland and for all the people of Donegal".

The veteran politician, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, is to resign after 15 years at the helm of the party and more than six years at the head of government.

It was described as a "pretty emotional speech" by one Fine Gael member, with another saying Mr Kenny's voice wavered towards the end.

While the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Richard Bruton have both ruled themselves out of the leadership race, despite serious consideration.

"While over the years we have had our differences on many political and policy issues, I have always appreciated Enda's decency, good humour and approachability", he said.

Kenny, 66, has led the center-right Fine Gael for 15 years, but has faced months of pressure from party colleagues to resign after being accused of a bumbling response to a police scandal.

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