Sunday 23 July 2017

'Coy' Humphreys tipped to be deputy leader whoever wins Fine Gael contest

Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys
Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys is being tipped for the post of deputy leader of Fine Gael under Leo Varadkar or Simon Coveney.

Sources have told the Irish Independent that Ms Humphreys is interested in the role and would be viewed positively by both leadership frontrunners.

However, she has yet to declare, even privately, which way she will vote in the contest which could get under way as early as this week. Colleagues have described her as "particularly coy".

As one of four Fine Gael women at the Cabinet table, her vote in the upcoming leadership contest will hold significant sway. "Nobody is safe in a reshuffle, but Heather would be pretty high up the pecking order," said one Cabinet colleague.

The Monaghan TD's department has a broad focus, taking in arts, heritage, rural affairs and regional development.

Sources said she was "tremendously well liked" within the parliamentary party.

"She knows how to get votes and has shown an interest in the organisational side of things. She has also helped with the mentoring of female candidates in the past," they said.

Sources in both the Varadkar and Coveney camps said they were open to the idea of giving her the post, although such an appointment is unlikely to be announced in advance of the leadership vote.

As a Dublin TD, Mr Varadkar will be expected to appoint a rural deputy, whereas the anticipation would be that Mr Coveney would pick somebody from the capital or Dublin commuter belt. However, a source close to the Cork TD said they would be "open to the idea" of Ms Humphreys.

The role is largely undefined, but a new leader would be likely to task their deputy with travelling the country meeting the membership in advance of the next general election.

It is widely believed by senior party figures that James Reilly will be dropped by a new leader.

It is the prerogative of the party leader to select their own deputy.

Mr Reilly was initially sacked as deputy leader by Enda Kenny after last year's General Election, only for Mr Kenny to perform a U-turn.

Irish Independent

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