Kenny finally makes way as Varadkar becomes Taoiseach
Kenny finally makes way as Varadkar becomes Taoiseach


The long goodbye of the outgoing 26 County Taoiseach has ended after he handed in his resignation to President Michael D Higgins, and his successor, Leo Varadkar, received his seal of office.

Amid another bout of sycophantic praise in the mainstream media, he delivered a final speech to the Dublin parliament.

Addressing his legacy in the manner of a departing US President, he said: “This has never been about me... it has always been about the problems and challenges that the people of our country face.”

Reflecting on his career, he added: “For my own part I am the first to acknowledge I have not got everything right. But I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed to be in the best interest of the Irish people.”

Mr Kenny, from Castlebar, County Mayo, recalled the will of Mayo figure Michael Davitt. The 19th century republican, agrarian campaigner and founder of the Irish National Land League said in his will that he left “kind thoughts” to his friends, forgiveness to others and an “undying prayer” to Ireland for “absolute freedom and independence”.

“I hope that in the two governments I have led that we have made a modest contribution towards that ambition,” Mr Kenny said, without further explanation.

He is the only Fine Gael leader to be re-elected Taoiseach, leading his party into a minority government with the support of traditional rivals Fianna Fail after losing support in a general election, precipitating a slow-motion internal party heave.

The subsequent nomination of new Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach was backed by Fianna Fail.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams challenged him Varadkar to adopt the approach of former Fianna Fail taoiseach Albert Reynolds and to “do the right thing” on the North.

Mr Reynolds “was the first taoiseach to make the difference when the peace process needed it. When others talked the talk, Albert walked the walk.”

Mr Adams said “he was able to do so because he had an affinity with the North, because in many ways he was not enthralled to the system but especially because he was new to the office.

“So Albert Reynolds did the right thing when the prevailing political mood and most of the media agenda was against this.”

During the Dail debate, Mr Adams also said he feared Mr Varadkar will “drag this government to the right”.

He appealed to Mr Varadkar to move away from the “easy rhetoric of a republic of opportunity to the hard task of building a real rights-based republic with a plan to eradicate inequalities”.

He pointed to Mr Varadkar’s comment that Sinn Fein represented the biggest threat to democracy. “This is a nonsense and he knows it.”

He also provoked sustained laughter when he said: “I do not know him well though he and I once attended the same pilates class,” then added: “We couldn’t get the former taoiseach to stretch as far as that.”

Ireland’s first openly gay cabinet minister and the son of an Indian doctor, the 38-year-old also became Ireland’s youngest ever Taoiseach when he received his seal of office from the President at his residence, Aras an Uachtarain.

He appointed his rival for the Fine Gael leadership, Simon Coveney, as deputy leader of the party, as well as Minister for Foreign Affairs, which traditionally includes responsibility for dealing with the north of Ireland.

But he drew immediate controversy with the appointment of former attorney-general Maire Whelan as a Court of Appeal judge without following recognised procedure.

The following is the full list of cabinet appointments made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:

Tanaiste and Department of Enterprise & Innovation: Frances Fitzgerald

Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure & Reform: Paschal Donohoe

Department of Education & Skills: Richard Bruton

Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade: Simon Coveney

Department of Justice & Equality: Charles Flanagan

Department of Culture: Heather Humphreys

Department of Health: Simon Harris

Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine: Michael Creed

Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment: Denis Naughten

Department of the Transport, Tourism & Sport: Shane Ross

Department of Children & Youth Affairs: Katherine Zappone

Department of Community & Rural Affairs: Michael Ring

Department of Employment & Social Protection: Regina Doherty

Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government: Eoghan Murphy

Attorney General: Seamus Woulfe

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