Europe

NI and Brexit my priorities, says Irish PM Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny speaking to journalists in New York Image copyright PA
Image caption Enda Kenny said Northern Ireland political talks and Brexit will are his "immediate priorities"

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has indicated that he will not step down until political uncertainty in Northern Ireland and over Brexit is resolved.

Speaking during a week-long visit to the United States, he said those issues are his "immediate priorities".

Mr Kenny will return to Dublin on Saturday, having met US President Donald Trump on his trip to America.

Critics within his Fine Gael party have been pressing for him to give a timetable for his departure as leader.

Last month, the Irish coalition government, made up of Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, survived a vote of no confidence in parliament.

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Image caption Mr Kenny met President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday

Before leaving Ireland for his annual engagements in the US to mark St Patrick's Day, Mr Kenny told his party that he would address his future "effectively and conclusively" when he returned.

But during the St Patrick's Day parade in New York on Friday, he said that political talks in Northern Ireland and forming a standpoint on Brexit would "take precedence over everything else".

"I have a number of immediate priorities on my desk when I arrive back tomorrow morning," he told Irish journalists.

"You can't have a situation where you have no leadership in Northern Ireland.

"Do you not think it is appropriate that the immediate priority is to have an executive functioning in Northern Ireland?"

Talks between Northern Ireland's political parties and the UK and Irish governments are continuing with a view to restoring a power-sharing executive at Stormont after this month's assembly election.

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Image caption Mr Kenny was in New York for the St Patrick's Day parade, where thousands of people lined Fifth Avenue

Mr Kenny also said that it was important for him to "get an agreed negotiating stance" with other European Union member states ahead of talks with the UK over its withdrawal from the union.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will begin the Brexit process by the end of this month, a move that looks set to have major implications for the neighbouring Republic of Ireland.

"It's going to affect everybody in our country - these are two immediate priorities," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Kenny was re-elected as taoiseach (Irish prime minister) in May 2016, after a general election that produced no outright winner.

He has led Fine Gael since 2002 and held the office of taoiseach since 2011.

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