Michael Noonan to retire

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny listens to questions during a media conference at

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny listens to questions during a media conference at

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced Wednesday he is resigning as leader of the Fine Gael party, paving the way for his replacement as the country's head of government. Kenny has led the party since 2002.

As to the future Cllr Mulhall said the party has "two good candidates" in Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney and there was talk of a third candidate.

Ms Doherty said she was supporting Mr Vardkar for his intellligence, integrity, sincerity and ability to listen.

Fine Gael lawmakers and councillors make up 75 percent of the vote, with ordinary members accounting for the balance.

Mr Varadkar (left) was last night at odds of 4/9 with Paddy Power Betfair, while Mr Coveney was at 13/8.

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National broadcaster RTE said last week that of those in the parliamentary party who had confidentially declared their support - around half - 23 favored Varadkar, the son of an Indian immigrant who is Ireland's first openly gay minister.

BoyleSports can report support for Simon Coveney on Thursday morning and as a result, the Cork native is now 6/4 from 7/4 to be the new Fine Gael leader.

Kenny's successor as party leader is set to be elected by June 2 and Noonan may still oversee the flotation of Allied Irish Banks, which he said could happen in the coming weeks, another landmark in the banking sector recovery.

Mr Kenny, who was elected taoiseach in 2011, tendered his resignation in March, but has been acting prime minister since then.

His departure has been long anticipated after the party returned to power past year in a fragile minority coalition, which is dependent on the support of the opposition party Fianna Fail.

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Meanwhile, in Dublin, Leo Varadkar has made his first public appearance of the leadership campaign.

Candidates have been warned to sign up to code of conduct to govern their behaviour in the campaign and they are also obliged to abide by data protection rules governing the use of membership details.

He said that like any politicians, Mr Kenny had "his highs and lows" but he praised general his performance over two governments.

Fine Gael party chairman Martin Heydon described Mr Kenny as a "compassionate, pragmatic and inclusive" leader.

Mr Donohoe's support is also significant, as he is one of the most influential members of the Cabinet and has been tipped as a potential minister for finance once Michael Noonan steps down after the leadership race.

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