Michael Noonan to retire

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Ireland's prime minister, Enda Kenny, who helped steer the country out of recession following the global financial crash, has announced that he is stepping down as the leader of his Fine Gael party.

The Cork South Central TD, who is now the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, is expected to contest the election to become leader of the Fine Gael party with the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar; an announcement is expected from Minister Varadkar later today.

"Last year I indicated that I would not lead the Fine Gael party into the next general election". However Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has not yet ruled herself out of contention.

He subsequently became the first Fine Gael Taoiseach to be elected to a second consecutive term on 6 May 2016, after two months of negotiations following the 2016 election, forming a Fine Gael-led minority government.

Currently, a party leadership contest has officially begun.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said he does not wish to be considered for a position in the Cabinet by Enda Kenny's successor.

"He also displayed a proactive approach to Brexit and realised the damaging impact it will have on everyone on the island, whether north or south, and established a forum to help seek solutions to it", she said.

The other expected candidate, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has yet to speak to the press but will launch his campaign Website later.

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Brendan Howlin, leader of the Labour Party, said that after working closely with Michael Noonan over "five hard years", he had learned to admire Mr Noonan's political skills and respect his manifest competence. "But I have decided that entering the contest is not the right decision for me".

"The reality is that Fine Gael, no matter who leads them, are firmly wedded to the policies that cause so much hardship in the daily lives of ordinary people".

He had always said that he would not run again at the head of his party to be prime minister a third time, but his departure was precipitated by the numerous criticisms that marked his management of a scandal within the police.

Fianna Fail's Michael Martin is the current 1/2 favourite to be Taoiseach after the next general election with Leo Varadkar next at 9/4 and Simon Coveney priced at 6/1.

"He has also made a substantial contribution to Limerick, and as minister I found him to be a constructive and supportive colleague in Cabinet".

However, he'll stay on as Taoiseach until the process of picking his successor is complete on June 2nd.

He is the first Fine Gael leader to win re-election to office.

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