Paschal Donohoe backs Leo Varadkar to be next taoiseach

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to step down as leader

Enda Kenny is stepping down

It's as there's been a groundswell of support in the west and northwest for Minister Leo Varadkar to succeed Enda Kenny.

Minister McHugh said he believed Minister Varadkar would be an outstanding leader of the country who understood issues affecting people right across the State and in particular Inishowen, having worked as a junior doctor in Carndonagh.

The veteran politician, from Castlebar, Co Mayo, is to resign after 15 years at the helm of the party and more than six years at the head of government.

Many consider ministers Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney to be the favourites to fill the vacancy.

"I have chose to implement this decision today", Kenny said in a written statement posted on his Twitter account.

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A number of Ministers have declared for the Leo Varadkar this morning - including Paschal Donohoe, Charlie Flanagan and Paul Kehoe.

Mr Kenny delayed the transition to a new leader on a number of occasions this year, asking colleagues for time to visit the USA for the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations and to meet President Donald Trump, continuing the unique tradition Ireland has of access to the White House every March 17.

Earlier this week, the Irish Independent reported that if successful in the leadership contest, Varadkar will seek a special arrangement to keep Northern Ireland within the single market to ensure an "invisible" border between the north and the rest of Ireland.

"On behalf of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, I would like to thank Enda Kenny for his remarkable service to our country and our Party".

Both Coveney and Varadkar have served in Kenny's cabinet since 2011 and are unlikely to usher in major policy changes.

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"I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with Simon Coveney, we're very lucky in Fine Gael to have two excellent candidates, it's a decision I've thought about and I will be supporting Leo".

Minister Dara Murphy suggested that Simon Coveney has the qualities needed to lead Ireland.

No one deserves it more. Rank-and-file members are allocated 25 percent and councilors 10 percent.

The Fine Gael leadership will be decided by an electoral college that gives the parliamentary party - TDs, Senators, and MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) - 65 percent of the vote. He subsequently took up positions including minister for agriculture, defence and now housing.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny speaks to the media at the general election count centre in Castlebar, Ireland February 27, 2016.

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Justice minister Frances Fitzgerald and education minister Richard Bruton may also run for the leadership.

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