Thursday 19 October 2017

Initial panic among Varadkar backers defused

Social Protection Minister and Fine Gael leadership frontrunner Leo Varadkar at the wedding of FG Senator Eugene Reagan and Janne Storgaard at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Social Protection Minister and Fine Gael leadership frontrunner Leo Varadkar at the wedding of FG Senator Eugene Reagan and Janne Storgaard at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The mood within the Varadkar camp was at a low ebb on Saturday morning following the Irish Independent's front page: "Varadkar panics over FG 'Judas' accusations".

Deputies firmly behind the Social Protection Minister began accusing Simon Coveney of "playing dirty". Sources close to Mr Coveney rejected the claims outright. A sense of worry spread among Mr Varadkar's team over the weekend amid fears that his leadership bid had suffered a serious setback.

His decision to release a strong statement putting pressure on the Taoiseach ahead of the RTÉ 'Six One News' was seen by many supporters as a gamble he had to take. "Otherwise, he would have looked weak," said one TD.

Sources say the crucial part of the statement is the focus on "stability".

But the mood among Mr Varadkar's supporters improved significantly after they watched Mr Coveney's intervention unfold on 'The Week in Politics'.

"This was Coveney's attempts to claw back lost ground," said one source.

Mr Varadkar's decision to immediately announce his support for the St Patrick's Day ultimatum put further pressure on Mr Kenny.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar's backers now say they will wait until they hear from Taoiseach Enda Kenny before deciding whether to proceed with a motion of no confidence.

But they are adamant that unless Mr Kenny spells out a clear exit strategy, the motion will be tabled immediately.

Supporters of Mr Varadkar say this could mean the staging of a special parliamentary party meeting on Friday or Saturday to allow for the vote of no confidence.

Irish Independent

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