Government lawmaker tells Irish PM to step down by September

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 11, 2016 4:27 AM

DUBLIN (Reuters) - A backbench member of Enda Kenny's Fine Gael party called on the Irish Prime Minister to step down over the next two months, becoming the first to openly urge Kenny to make good on a promise to allow a change of leadership.

Kenny returned to office only in May as head of a government that is due to run until the end of 2018. But he has said he will not lead the center-right party into the next election -- though without committing to when he will stand down.

Pressure on Kenny to announce a timeline was raised last week, particularly after an opinion poll showed his party had fallen nine percentage points behind its main rival, Fianna Fail.

After suffering heavy losses in February elections, Fine Gael returned to power with the backing of a group of independent lawmakers and facilitated by Fianna Fail. That leaves the risk that Fianna Fail could try to trigger a snap election later this year.

"The only opportunity for an orderly transition is the summer recess," Fine Gael's Brendan Griffin told national broadcaster RTE on Monday, referring to the parliamentary break which is due to start this month and run into September.

Griffin said he was considering putting down a motion of no confidence in Kenny at Fine Gael's weekly party meeting on Wednesday.

"It is ultimately a matter for the Taoiseach (prime minister) but the best opportunity for the country for stable government is a change of leadership. Particularly in the context of Brexit, we need to have a stronger Fine Gael."

However Kenny's senior ministers, including the main candidates to succeed him, have come out in support of the prime minister.

"This is not the time for a leadership challenge. In the light of Britain's vote to leave the European Union, which is a big body blow, we need the experience of the Taoiseach and his relationships in Europe," Education Minister Richard Bruton, who led a challenge against Kenny in 2010, told RTE.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Keith Weir)