Updated: 23/02/17 : 06:13:54
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Taoiseach to deal with future plans after St Patrick's Day

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party he will deal with his future effectively and conclusively after St Patrick's Day.

He is due to make an official trip to Washington DC for the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

RTÉ reports that his speech was short and there was no debate. Mr Kenny received a standing ovation, and the meeting then moved on.

He made some pointed comments, and said that he hoped Dublin TD Noel Rock would take accurate notes of the meeting. Mr Rock was the first to say the leadership issue should be resolved.

The Taoiseach also paid tribute to party chairman Martin Heydon, for the way he had conducted himself over the last week.

However, he did not make any comments about Pat Deering, who had previously signalled he would table a motion of no confidence. This evening, Mr Deering said a motion was no longer needed as the issue had been dealt with.

Mr Kenny also said that he had been in politics for 42 years and was not interested in ultimatums or motions - which was perceived at those members of the party who had made comments on when he should bring clarity to the matter.

Following the meeting, Mr Heydon said that the Taoiseach reiterated his position that he will not lead Fine Gael into the next general election.

He said the party will proceed in "a united fashion", adding that "Fine Gael continues to focus on the important work of this Government with our coalition partners.

"Our motivation is the people of this country and the issues that matter to them. We continue to focus on implementing the Programme for Government."

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney praised the Taoiseach's contribution to the meeting.

He said Mr Kenny spoke calmly and with the authority of his many years in politics.

Mr Coveney, who is a contender to replace the Taoiseach as party leader, told journalists Mr Kenny's remarks were just what the party wanted to hear.

He described the speech as a very sensible roll-out of what the party can accept that kept Mr Kenny's authority intact.

He said the Taoiseach had been through dozens of political storms and was not fazed by crises.

Mr Coveney said Mr Kenny had spoken with calm and authority and had convinced people they could trust him to manage the process ahead.

The other leading contender, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, said the Taoiseach had settled the matter and that everyone was relieved that damaging divisions had been avoided.

Sources had earlier suggested that Mr Kenny would not outline a specific departure date this evening and would make a defence of his record as leader.

One senator had said party members have been critical of how the Taoiseach has been treated over the past week while others wanted Mr Kenny to bring clarity and finality to the leadership question.

Over recent days Mr Kenny has spoken to a wide range of people inside and outside the party about events of the past week.

There has been some speculation that Mr Kenny might step down as leader in early April shortly before or after the first EU post-Brexit Summit, clearing the way for a contest.

He would remain as Taoiseach over the remaining three or four weeks until a new leader was elected.

If events run to this timetable it would take him past his 66th birthday on 24 April and would be consistent with his reported aim of staying for around ten to 12 weeks.

See Sligo Today 23/2/2017