Coveney refuses to concede but Varadkar says he's 'confident'
Simon Coveney was last night desperately trying to convince TDs to privately forsake his leadership rival as Leo Varadkar remained "confident" of winning.
The Housing Minister refused to concede the race ahead of today's parliamentary party vote despite growing evidence that Mr Varadkar is on course for a substantial victory.
Both candidates told the Irish Independent that Fine Gael has been the real winner from the contest - but their supporters continued to vigorously spin against each other behind the scenes.
Sources close to Mr Coveney insisted he will win the membership vote in a development that would be deeply uncomfortable for the Social Protection Minister.
"That will be one of the big stories. We'll win the membership very strongly," said a source.
If that were to happen the Cork TD would be in prime position to seek the position of Tánaiste in a Cabinet reshuffle, his supporters said.
"Simon has said this was about fighting for the soul of the party and that's why he'll win the membership."
His backers took particular encouragement from reports that up to 100 people were queueing outside a polling station in Tipperary before it opened yesterday evening.
Mr Varadkar was also working the phones last night in a bid to counteract last-minute advances from his opponent.
His supporters expect "a clean sweep" of the electoral colleges. One source dismissed the theory that Mr Coveney will win the membership as "wishful thinking".
Mr Varadkar has said that "ideally" he would want to win the popular vote but the party will get behind whoever is elected.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, he said the election process needs "some fine tuning", adding: "It could also be a little shorter, for all our sakes."
But he said it had been "brilliant for democracy" and "a really positive experience for Fine Gael, which is up in the polls".
"The party can only benefit from this injection of energy and enthusiasm," he said.
Likewise Mr Coveney said it had been a "great two weeks for Fine Gael".
Read More: Creed keeps his FG vote a secret
"From my perspective, I still believe I can win this contest with the support of enough Oireachtas colleagues today having received strong support from the membership and councillors," he said.
On Newstalk radio Mr Varadkar outlined how he will deal with some of the most difficult issues facing the Government.
He expressed confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan but then hit out at attempts by the public service bodies to blame "resources and system failures" for their problems. "What I will demand is accountability, and that's not just in the guards, it's across the board," he said.
Mr Varadkar also indicated he will not rescind the invitation for Donald Trump to visit Ireland which was issued by Enda Kenny.
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