Enda Kenny finally did what his party colleagues had wanted him to for a long time. After returning his party to government in 2016, Kenny had hinted at his intention to step down within the lifetime of this government, sparking a level of unrest in his own party. Time and time again, he had been urged by his party colleagues to outline his intentions, with several party members eager to take the reins of Fine Gael.

On Tuesday, he finally stepped down, in what many described as "an emotional party meeting". Indeed Kenny was the only Fine Gael leader ever to return his party to government after an election.

While many may initially have underestimated his political tenacity and staying power, there is no doubt that Kenny has been a deeply committed, strong leader who guided Ireland through perhaps the worst economic turmoil ever experienced.

Kenny published his letter of resignation on Twitter, thanking his family, supporters, and party colleagues.

Enda Kenny's legacy

After a political career spanning more than 40 years, Enda Kenny's achievements are likely to outdo his failings. Credited for having rebuilt Fine Gael after a dismal performance at the 2002 election, Kenny took over as Prime Minister shortly after the 80 billion IMF bailout in 2011.

While many of his critics had urged him to seek better terms for Ireland from the European Central Bank, his supporters have applauded the manner in which he steered Ireland through the subsequent years of austerity and finally oversaw the Ireland's departure from the Troika programme. Kenny had had the difficult task of running the country on an incredibly tight budget to adhere to the what many believe were unfair terms set by the IMF, ECB, and EU.

Political opponents to this day criticise Kenny for having dished out austerity to his own people rather than stood up to the Troika.

But as Ireland's recovery continued and unemployment figures continued to fall, Kenny's standing grew in strength and ultimately led to his re-election as Taoiseach in 2016. As promised at that time, Kenny has now made way for a new party leader who will also become the new Irish Prime Minister.

Who will succeed Enda Kenny?

The leadership contest is already in full swing with Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Social Protection, and Simon Coveney, the Minister for Defense, both seeking to succeed Kenny. Both men have been building their profile over the last few months in expectation of a leadership contest. The new leader will be elected in an electoral college-type contest with the Fine Gael parliamentary party making up 65% of the vote, general members 25%, and local councilors 10 %.

Brexit fallout main task for new leader

Dealing with the effects of Brexit for Ireland will be the most arduous task for the new leader. Commentators, on the whole, agree that Brexit will have a negative impact on the Irish economy, and issues such as the border with Northern Ireland will need intelligent handling and a strong leadership.