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Enda Kenny has officially announced his resignation

Enda Kenny has officially announced his resignation

"I also believe Minister Varadkar will help stabilise our country, deal with the challenges of Brexit and help Donegal and the border counties in the months and years ahead".

"I will retire as leader of Fine Gael effective from midnight tonight", Kenny said, opening the way for a swift leadership contest.

One TD said it was the "shortest ever" party meeting with the remaining agenda abandoned as members spilled onto the Leinster House plinth to discuss Mr Kenny's legacy.

Senator Burke paid tribute to outgoing leader, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, for his outstanding work for the party over the past 15 years. In a coming-out speech he gave in a radio interview, he said: "It's not something that defines me".

Ireland's unemployment rate has fallen to 6.2 percent from 15.1 percent in 2012 and the government is forecasting a deficit of 0.4 percent of GDP this year.

As Enda himself said: "Let the games begin".

Other achievements during the 66-year-old's time in government include the legalisation of gay marriage.

Failures include an inability to convince the public on water-metering and charges, painful tax hikes, unprecedented homelessness and a myriad of police corruption and negligence crises.

Mr Kenny's legacy includes leading Ireland out of a crippling recession, albeit with an agenda of austerity.

Last week his role on the worldwide stage continued when he welcomed European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to Government Buildings after he addressed a special sitting of the parliament in Dublin.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon offered Mr Kenny her "best wishes" saying she enjoyed working with him at the British/Irish Council and said "he has always been a good friend to Scotland".

Thanking those in the Fine Gael party, his constituents and family he announced he would be stepping down with immediate effect. Rank-and-file members are allocated 25 percent and councilors 10 percent.

The former Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, has recently announced that he will enter the race to become the next leader of the Fine Gael party.

Mr Coveney's camp later claimed to have the support of 90% of the councillors in Cork and Kerry.

Elsewhere, Tanaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, who had been talked about as a possible candidate for the leadership, ruled herself out of the race.