Latest: Enda Kenny warns Leo Varadkar of 'huge difference' in new role

Update 12.39pm: Taoiseach Enda Kenny has delivered a stark warning to Leo Varadkar at his final Cabinet meeting saying: "There is a huge difference in leading a country to running a Government department", writes Daniel McConnell, Political Editor.

Mr Kenny has concluded his final Cabinet meeting ahead of his resignation this afternoon.

According to sources, Mr Kenny was said to be businesslike throughout the entire Cabinet meeting.

It is understood at the end of the meeting, Mr Kenny said a few words to those present and he wished those remaining on in Cabinet well.

At the end of the meeting, Mr Kenny shook all the hands of the ministers present.

Earlier:

By Daniel McConnell Political Editor

Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny has chaired his last meeting of the Cabinet this morning ahead of his resignation this afternoon.

Sources have said warm tributes were paid to Mr Kenny from both Fine Gael and Independent ministers.

Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrives at Government Buildings, Dublin, for his last day as Taoiseach.

Incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is said to have led the tributes at the weekly gathering of ministers.

Warm tributes were also paid to Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who is also retiring from Cabinet.

Mr Noonan was a key player in securing the support of the Independent Alliance for the minority government a year ago and his influence among younger Fine Gael ministers was significant.

It is understood that a number of lighter moments were had at the meeting and the mood was “jovial enough”.

Michael Noonan, who is also retiring from Cabinet

“There was no sense that Enda is being pushed here, even though he is. He has made peace with his exit it seemed,” said one source.

Both men were praised for their handling of the economic crisis and for their leadership of the country during difficult times.

Normal business in the Dáil this afternoon is to be suspended to make way for Mr Kenny’s retirement speech and tributes from leading figures in the house.

The House will be adjourned to allow Mr Kenny travel to Aras an Uachtarain to present his seal of office to President Michael D Higgins.

It had been originally expected that the Dáil would take nominations to replace Mr Kenny today but it was decided to delay that until tomorrow to allow the departing Taoiseach a dignified exit and to allow incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar a clear run.

Arriving at Government Buildings for the Cabinet meeting this morning, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan praised Mr Kenny saying his legacy will be substantial.

Mr Flanagan said the Taoiseach had convened a "war cabinet" at a time of great difficulty and ensured the public finances were brought back to order.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin (pictured) has said he thinks he "probably will" miss the Taoiseach, because Mr Kenny had been his immediate opponent and they had had "many an encounter".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Martin said Mr Kenny was a courageous politician and described him as a patriot who had served his country well.

Mr Martin quipped that Mr Kenny was probably enjoying the moment and "smiling a little bit today" as he is being lauded as "the greatest leader since Brian Boru" just weeks after his own ministers were briefing journalists calling on him to go.

On his way into Cabinet this morning, Mr Kenny said he has been “proud and privileged” to serve as Taoiseach for so many years as colleagues paid tribute to him on his last day in office.

“While it may be a milestone for me personally, in the context of the country that’s irrelevant,” he said.

“So it’s business as usual. We have many challenges up ahead. I’m proud and privileged to have been able to serve as Taoiseach for all these years.”

Asked as he entered Government Buildings if today was a sad day for him, he said: “No”.

It is understood that Mr Kenny used the early part of yesterday to clear out his desk and say goodbye to staff at Government Buildings.

Once that was completed, he hosted an informal lunch for his personal staff in Hugo's Restaurant on Merrion Row, just around the corner from his office.

Hugo’s operates as the virtual posh canteen for ministers and senior officials in Government Buildings and the two finance departments. It is also a favoured haunt of Labour leader and former Minister Brendan Howlin.

It is understood that last Thursday night at the Farmleigh state guest house in the Phoenix Park, there was a special government dinner and presentation from all the Cabinet members to Mr Kenny and also to outgoing Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Then on Friday night there was a party in Government Buildings for Mr Kenny’s family and close personal friends, which went on late.

Mr Kenny is the longest serving Fine Gael Taoiseach and the first in his party to serve two consecutive terms in the highest political office.

His legacy will be marked by the turnaround in the economy, the country's exit from the bailout programme and the same sex marriage referendum.

However, his continued mishandling of several justice crises since 2014 have dogged his time in office and ultimately led to his departure from office.


KEYWORDS: enda kenny.

 

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