Fine Gael ministers set to bid to succeed Enda Kenny

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One party figure described how Mr Kenny's voice quivered as he finished his address to colleagues before making a swift exit rather than waiting for questions or commendations.

"We now have the opportunity to break the boom and bust cycle, and for our country to remain stable, sustainable and work for its people".

"And also devolving a new social contract".

Mr Flanagan said that Mr Varadkar is a "straight talker" who has the "capacity to reach out".

When asked if he would merge the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure, he said he would be publishing a paper on his policies later in the campaign.

Mr Donohoe stated his intention to vote for Mr Varadkar in an interview on RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

"I'm supporting Leo Varadkar as he is the most capable politician of my generation".

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"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".

"For me, I'm in politics to be positive and constructive", he said.

While Noonan and Kenny have been widely praised for their management of the economy, their Fine Gael party lost a quarter of its seats at elections a year ago as voters complained they were not feeling the recovery.

No formal announcement was made despite rumours to the contrary that party strategists were looking at dates in the second and third week of June.

"And open a conversation with people that don't support us, people who have lost faith in us or people who maybe never considered voting for Fine Gael but start that conversation with them".

Mr O'Donovan said he believed the Minister for Social Protection had the best attributes for the job.

He is throwing his weight behind the Housing Minister.

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He added "Simon Coveney has also seen his priced halved into 3/1 from 6/1 to be Taoiseach after the Next General Election and judging by the momentum behind the Cork native over the past 24 hours, he certainly can not be ruled out".

Fine Gael lawmakers and councillors make up 75 percent of the vote, with ordinary members accounting for the balance.

Once the winning candidate has been safely ratified, party bosses are expected to switch their focus to planning for the next general election.

From Thursday to Sunday next week, there will be four regional debates or hustings - in Dublin, Carlow, Ballinasloe and Cork.

The governing centre-right party's new leader will be in place by the end of 2 June, Kenny said.

Dubliner Varadkar is now the clear favourite with the bookies to succeed Enda Kenny as Fine Gael boss, though political sources say it is way too early to call.

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