Fine Gael TDs have paid tribute to Taoiseach Enda Kenny after he announced he is to retire as party leader from midnight.

Mr Kenny will remain in his role as Taoiseach until a successor is elected on 2 June.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, one of the favourites to succeed Mr Kenny, described him as "an extraordinary Taoiseach."

He said: "Enda gave hope to a battered and bruised Ireland in 2011."

He added that Mr Kenny "brought this country back from the brink of economic collapse, and offered political stability when countries across Europe were staring into the abyss."

Simon Coveney, seen as the other frontrunner for the leadership, also paid tribute to Mr Kenny.

The Minister for Housing said: "When Enda took over the leadership of our Party we were broken and demoralised.

"With his vision, determination, positivity and relentless work-rate he led our Party back from defeat and to sustained electoral success.

"His record in Government since 2011 will be viewed very positively by historians, not least how he led the restoration of our economic financial independence over that period, which was a landmark event."

The Chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party also praised Mr Kenny's role as party leader.

In a statement, Martin Heydon said: "Under Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, we saw a devastated economy repaired, long-ignored social issues addressed, and the rebirth of a self-confident Ireland. 

"His leadership of Fine Gael since 2002 has brought us to our most successful period in Government as the largest Party in Dáil Éireann for the last two terms."

Mr Heydon thanked Enda Kenny for his service to the party and the country.

Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly said Mr Kenny has proven to be an outstanding politician.

Speaking at Leinster House he said he put the country ahead of Fine Gael.

The leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the European Parliament highlighted Mr Kenny's reputation in Europe.

MEP Seán Kelly said Mr Kenny "is considered a hero by the European People's Party and rightly so."

The former GAA president added that Mr Kenny "inherited an economic crisis from a previous government and stepped up to that challenge with great courage and strength but managed to get the country through a bailout and exit that bailout successfully.

"The economic turnaround in Ireland has been remarkable. The recovery is ongoing and must continue."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that Mr Kenny "worked diligently for his county, party and country over a long period of time."

While acknowledging the political differences the pair had over their time in Dáil Éireann, he said he "always appreciated Enda’s decency, good humour and approachability."

Labour leader Brendan Howlin Mr Kenny was recognised as a personable individual; somebody with great empathy, but behind that a very steely and very strong politician.

He said he believes Mr Kenny’s legacy will be for the five year period during which Labour and Fine Gael were in government:

"Two very different parties, with very different platforms that had great internal tension throughout, but at the end of the day managed to hold together for more than five years, and I think, make a dramatic change in the economic fortunes of this state.

"And I think that will redound to his credit."

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said that while he disagreed with Mr Kenny on many issues, he acknowledged that "he did his best from his perspective."

However, Mr Adams said that "from Sinn Féin's perspective, this was not good enough."

He said that Mr Kenny's "political legacy is dominated by crisis, chaos, and chronic lack of accountability."

He criticised Fine Gael policies with regard to housing, health and Brexit.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan thanked Mr Kenny for his service and called for a swift change of leadership.

He said that whoever assumes the role of Taoiseach must have the mandate of the Dáil ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit on 22 June.

Meanwhile the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs said that while "it is right to acknowledge his leadership ... politics cannot stall."

Independent TD Catherine Zappone said the successful Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015 was the greatest example of Mr Kenny's openness to change.

Former British prime minister David Cameron tweeted that Mr Kenny was a "strong leader for Ireland" and a "great partner for the UK."

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Mr Kenny, describing him as a good friend to Scotland.