Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Wednesday said he will step down once a new leader for his Fine Gael party is elected by June 2 at the latest.
The prime minister leads a minority government under a deal with the opposition Fianna Fail party, which has veto power over Fine Gael's decision over who to nominate as Kenny's successor.
As it stands, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar are deemed to be the two front-runners.
In the midst of declarations, Michael Noonan announced he would retire from politics at the next election.
The 66-year-old had been under pressure to resign from factions within his own party that were dissatisfied with his leadership.More news: Intelligence Trump leaked to Russians came from Israel
"I would like to pay tribute to the Taoiseach for his dedication and service to his country and party over many, many years".
"After decades of crisis management, it is time for a new direction for Fine Gael and for the country". "I think he can connect much closer with an electorate who may not be Fine Gael", said the former TD.
Richard Bruton and Simon Harris have ruled themselves out of the running, as has Frances Fitzgerald - meaning the contest is now a two horse race.
The contest is decided by an electoral college that gives the parliamentary party, made up of TDs, senators and MEPs, 65% of the vote.
Minister McHugh said he believed Minister Varadkar would be an outstanding leader of the country who understood issues affecting people right across the State and in particular Inishowen, having worked as a junior doctor in Carndonagh.More news: Trump intends to renegotiate NAFTA as early as August
"He was good for the party", the Emo councillor said of the Mayo TD.
Her predecessor David Cameron said Mr Kenny "was a strong leader for Ireland, a great partner for the United Kingdom, and remains a good friend".
He said he did not see any major failings with Minister Varadkar and his choice was more down to Minister Coveney's attributes and work in the past.
"I believe our party, with Leo Varadkar as leader, will attract a stronger vote in the higher population areas".
Speaking at the same conference, a senior official at the government agency responsible for customs checks, said disruption at the border between the Irish Republic and the British province of Northern Ireland would be minimal.More news: Oppo A77 launched with 4GB RAM and 3200mAh Battery
Minister Paschal Donohoe has declared his support for Leo Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership race.
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