Irish leader Enda Kenny stepping down as head of his party

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will step down at midnight Wednesday amid a police corruption scandal, a decision that could trigger parliamentary elections.

After 15 years at the helm, including two stints as Taoiseach, Mr Kenny wants the party executive to expedite hand over process by June 2 but stressed that he will continue to perform his duties as Taoiseach until a new leader has been elected.

He said it had been a "huge honor and privilege.to lead our party for the past 15 years, in opposition and into government on two successive occasions".

The decision to stand down was revealed to party members at a private meeting and comes after delaying the announcement for several months. He also thanked his personal staff as well as his family.

Kenny says he is resigning as leader of the Fine Gael pa.

"I could not have engaged as I did without that base".

The party has said this lunchtime that the appointment of a new leader, in and of itself, will not require any amendment to the Confidence and Supply Arrangement with Fine Gael.

Prime minister since 2011 and leader of his party for nearly 15 years, Kenny is expected to be replaced by either Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, 38, the bookmakers' favorite, or Housing Minister Simon Coveney, 44.

Kenny had agreed to hand over power but repeatedly delayed, asking colleagues for time to visit the United States for St. Patrick's Day celebrations and to meet President Donald Trump in March, then attending a key European Union summit in April to talk about Britain's exit.

Mr Coveney, from Cork, has also held a number of ministries but faces weekly criticism of his efforts to tackle the country's unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis.

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