Coveney aims to win back six votes and make it 'real contest'
Housing Minister Simon Coveney believes he can get back into the race to lead Fine Gael if he can swing six TDs or senators back in his favour.
The Cork TD's supporters are actively contacting colleagues in a bid to convince them to abandon Leo Varadkar.
"People have spoken about the numbers being a real mountain to climb for me but those of you who have been studying this in some detail would know that if half a dozen people switch and if we were to do very well with the other two colleges this would be a real contest," Mr Coveney said last night.
"I think that is absolutely achievable. Of my 73 parliamentary colleagues, many of them were very supportive of me only a week ago.
"Some of them decided to move with the momentum in the first 24 or 48 hours. But I think momentum can change," he said at a rally in Athlone, which was attended by around 300 grassroots members.
Mr Coveney said there has been too much focus on the parliamentary party and he wants to "shift the focus".
"This is 21,000 people voting, not 73. Nobody has cast a vote yet," he said.
In a clear challenge to Mr Varadkar's status as the runaway favourite, he said: "Whoever wins this contest I want them to be tested. I want them to be questioned. I want them to be forced to outline in some detail what they're about, what their value system is."
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar was asked about claims by members of the Coveney camp that they are targeting at least half a dozen of his supporters before the vote takes place.
He said that can work "both ways" adding that he would be hopeful too that some of Mr Coveney's backers will reconsider and instead vote for him.
Mr Varadkar made the remarks in Wicklow Town, where he visited the historical Wicklow Gaol. He was given a guided tour of the cells of the prison, which was built in the late 18th century.
Mr Varadkar was invited to the venue by junior minister and local TD Andrew Doyle, who yesterday became the latest TD to publicly declare for the Social Protection Minister.
Mr Varadkar told the Irish Independent that he believes he has delivered "real results" since being appointed to the Department of Social Protection.
"First of all, the jobs we have in Cabinet are assigned by the Taoiseach," Mr Varadkar said.
"But I have served in three. The two biggest departments in terms of budget.
"The most sensitive, in terms of health, and probably the most diverse in transport, tourism and sport.
"I think in social protection, and I've only been there a year, I've shown real results," he added.
Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader
The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.
That makes each of the 73 members' votes worth 0.9pc of the total ballot.
Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10pc, while the remaining 25pc is rank and file members.
|Richard Bruton -Minister||Simon Harris - Minister|
|Frances Fitzgerald - Minister||Damien English - Minister|
|Michael Ring - Minister||Dara Murphy - Minister|
|Eoghan Murphy - Minister||David Stanton - Minister|
|Sean Kyne - Minister||Marcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister|
|Joe McHugh - Minister||Kate O'Connell - TD|
|Helen McEntee - Minister||Maria Bailey - TD|
|Charlie Flanagan - Minister||Sean Barrett TD|
|Paul Kehoe -Minister||Hildegard Naughton - TD|
|Patrick O'Donovan - Minister||Peter Fitzpatrick - TD|
|Regina Doherty - Minister||Tim Lombard - Senator|
|Mary Mitchell O'Connor - Minister||Jerry Buttimer - Senator|
|Paschal Donohoe - Minister||Paudie Coffey - Senator|
|Heather Humphreys - Minister||James Reilly - Senator|
|Pat Breen - Minister||Colm Burke - Senator|
|Catherine Byrne - Minister||John O'Mahony - Senator|
|Andrew Doyle - Minister||Paul Coghlan - Senator|
|John Paul Phelan - TD||Gabrielle McFadden - Senator|
|Noel Rock - TD||Deirdre Clune - MEP|
|Tony McLoughlin - TD|
|Alan Farrell - TD|
|Michael D'Arcy - TD|
|Tom Neville - TD|
|Josepha Madigan - TD|
|Pat Deering - TD|
|Jim Daly - TD|
|Brendan Griffin - TD|
|Ciaran Cannon - TD|
|Colm Brophy - TD|
|Peter Burke - TD|
|Fergus O'Dowd - TD|
|John Deasy - TD|
|Joe Carey - TD|
|Neale Richmond - Senator|
|Catherine Noone - Senator|
|Paddy Burke - Senator|
|Martin Conway - Senator|
|Michelle Mulherin - Senator|
|Maura Hopkins - Senator|
|Ray Butler - Senator|
|Frank Feighan - Senator|
|Maria Byrne - Senator|
|Joe O'Reilly - Senator|
|Kieran O'Donnell - Senator|
|Brian Hayes - MEP|
|Enda Kenny - Outgoing Party Leader *||Martin Heydon - Party Chairman *|
|Michael Noonan - Minister||Michael Creed - Minister|
|Bernard Durkan - TD||Sean Kelly - MEP|
|Mairead McGuinness MEP|
* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement