More declarations of support expected as Fine Gael leadership

Fine Gael is looking for a new CEO after Enda Kenny stepped down as of midnight, and with that comes the big gig - Taoiseach - for as long as the minority government remains in power.

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.

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In his statement Mr Kenny said he will remain as Taoiseach until June 2nd.

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

Fine Gael's executive council will meet to officially open the contest to become party leader.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Surgeon described Mr Kenny as a "good friend to Scotland".

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe, Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe, Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd and Sligo Leitrim North TD Tony McLoughlin also all backed Mr Varadkar.

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr Kenny had been a "strong and consistent friend" to her country.

The race is set to be dominated the two declared candidates: Varadkar, 38, and Coveney, 44.

Mr Coveney denied that he has made any promises on cabinet jobs in return for support for his leadership bid and the TDs who came out gunning for Mr Varadkar also claimed they had been given no assurances.

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".

The Loughill native has had the privilege of serving as a Minister in every Fine Gael led Government since 1982.

The 66-year-old had been under pressure to resign from factions within his own party that were dissatisfied with his leadership.

"I don't think that a family living in a hotel room this evening is looking for a Taoiseach (prime minister) with an X-factor", Coveney told reporters at his campaign launch, referring to the housing crisis Kenny's successor will inherit. These include Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

In distant third is Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, whose odds were at 22/1 last night.

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