Leadership favourite throws rural areas a post office lifeline
Every community will be within a defined distance of a post office under Leo Varadkar's plans for rural Ireland.
Mr Varadkar wants to examine a mechanism similar to the one applied to GP services, whereby there must be a post office within a certain radius of a village.
It comes amid expectation that hundreds of post offices are set to be closed down or scaled back in the coming years. At the launch of his 'Catch-up Strategy for the Ireland Left Behind' Mr Varadkar said the postal service faces an uncertain future.
Mr Varadkar said, if elected taoiseach, he will seek to "more or less guarantee the existence of a certain number of post offices".
He could not say what the radius would be set at but noted the current contract between An Post and the Department of Social Protection says 95pc of the population should be within a 15km radius of an office.
Mr Varadkar launched his plan in Mullingar alongside Rural Affairs Ministers Heather Humphreys and Michael Ring, who have both backed him in the leadership race.
Among his 12 priorities for rural Ireland are broadband, increased funding for roads and a motorway and a dual-carriageway network to Donegal.
Mr Varadkar rebuffed accusations from opponents he has not costed his major infrastructure projects.
"These are projects that have been planned and promised for a very long time. What I have done is set out exactly how I think it can be achieved through a change in the debt reduction target," he said.
And the minister hit out at Simon Coveney's claim that the Government should focus on developing an Ireland 2040 plan before making specific commitments.
"The Ireland 2040 plan that Mr Coveney has put at the centre of his pitch doesn't exist yet. Nobody has seen it," he said.
Mr Coveney focused his electoral campaign in Munster yesterday where he insisted the battle is far from over.
"Leo is a very talented politician and if he wins, he'll make a good leader of Fine Gael.
"But I believe I would make a better leader and I believe I can take the party in a direction that not only the Fine Gael party membership would be comfortable with, but is a direction that a lot of people outside Fine Gael would be comfortable with," he said.
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