Enda Kenny announces resignation as Fine Gael leader

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe with party leader Enda Kenny after his election at the count centre in the RDS for a Dublin byelection in June 2009

A number of politicians have chosen to back Coveney in this election process, including the Minister of Health, Simon Harris, and Dr. James Reilly, who has made a decision to step down from his position as deputy leader of the party.

The support of Mr Flanagan, Mr Donohoe and Mr Kehoe solidifies a commanding early lead race for Mr Varadkar after he secured the support of twice as numerous party's TDs and Senators as his main rival, Simon Coveney, during the first 24 hours of the race.

Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach, is stepping down as party leader, he announced in a statement on his Twitter account Wednesday.

In the midst of declarations, Michael Noonan announced he would retire from politics at the next election.

"I hope now Leo goes on to win this Fine Gael contest and help lead our country after the enormous progress of this Government over the past six years".

The announcement came a day after Kenny said he would quit, kicking off a succession contest that was confirmed as a race between two younger ministers after other potential candidates stepped aside and colleagues began to pick sides.

Mr Varadkar said it had been his idea originally to extend voting rights for the leadership of Fine Gael to all the party's elected representatives.

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I also believe that we need to think about the future of our country and with this in mind, I believe the best choice for the next taoiseach is Leo Varadkar.

If elected party leader, Mr Varadkar said he wants to reach out to those who are not supporting the party and he also wants to make it a campaigning party.

He was due to step down at midnight to become acting party leader until a successor is chosen.

If the two parties can not agree, it would trigger national elections and Kenny would stay in office as head of a caretaker government.

As the only Fine Gael government TD in this constituency, I believe it is important for the people of this area to have access to the taoiseach and for me to have a good working relationship with the candidate.

Around 21,000 Fine Gael members will be entitled to vote with TDs and Senators accounting for 65 per cent of the vote, delegates 25 per cent and local councillors the remaining ten per cent share.

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