Monday 24 July 2017

Leo 'trying to buy election', Simon 'is dishonest' - FG contest ends on bitter note

Simon Coveney pictured at hustings in Cork last night. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Simon Coveney pictured at hustings in Cork last night. Picture: Colin O'Riordan

Ralph Riegel and Kevin Doyle

The two ministers vying to be Taoiseach have slated each other's election campaigns, with Simon Coveney accusing Leo Varadkar of trying to buy his way to power.

As the Fine Gael hustings ended on a bitter note, Mr Varadkar said his rival was creating "a dishonest" portrayal of his own commitment to compassionate policies.

Both candidates used the fourth and final leadership debate in Co Cork, attended by more than 800 party members and politicians, to deliver gloves-off performances.

Mr Varadkar described the policy document produced by the Housing Minister during the contest as "something vague" which he could use to cover the fact he is not willing to make big decisions.

In response Mr Coveney said he want to deal with "five or six big issues that I actually want to change Ireland with as a Taoiseach".

"What Leo is doing is committing to spending money that we don't have yet."

Mr Coveney said he wanted to plan the country's future and then look at the funding priorities.

"Leo couldn't wait for that because there was an election under way," he said.

The ministers again clashed over the message the party should carry into future elections. "I have heard a lot of talk about compassion from Simon over the past week. I agree with most of what he has said," Mr Varadkar said.

"What I cannot agree with is what he has tried to say about me and I want to counter that here tonight.

"Fine Gael has enough enemies... we have enough of that without saying that about each other. In my view it is divisive, it is dishonest and it is not a good way to seek a mandate."

Mr Coveney said he wasn't questioning anybody's compassion but did question the direction in which Mr Varadkar wants to take Fine Gael.

Mr Varadkar also claimed that if Fine Gael committed itself to "motherhood and apple pie" policies only, we would end up like Greece.

Earlier, Mr Coveney attacked Mr Varadkar's policy approach as effectively leaving behind portions of Irish society.

"You need to ask the question - not who has the greatest list of goodies, [but] who is going to shine the light for this party and this country?" he said.

"How do we shine a light through Fine Gael thinking so we can give direction to the country?"

Passionate

Mr Coveney said that, unlike Mr Varadkar, he offers a passionate vision for rebuilding Irish society for the 21st century.

"That is what marks us out [in Fine Gael] - left-wing parties want to create a dependency culture. I want to represent an enabling culture.

"We need to be a party about building a fairer, stronger society."

Mr Varadkar was booed by the audience when he criticised Mr Coveney for once again expressing admiration of Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and his policies.

In turn, he criticised the Cork TD for the lack of specific policy details in his leadership platform.

"If you're not going to answer those questions [about tax cuts, funding priorities] you don't have a philosophy, you just have a passionate speech."

Mr Varadkar said he offered a new social contract to Irish people - with no one paying more than 50 cent in the euro in tax and merging the Universal Social Charge with PRSI to offer people enhanced services and benefits.

Both also clashed over Local Property Tax (LPT), with Mr Coveney saying Mr Varadkar's plan to allow the tax remain within the county it is raised from as being "irresponsible."

Mr Varadkar countered: "It is another deliberate misrepresentation of my policies."

The debate: in quotes

Simon Coveney

"We are the only party in Ireland that can be trusted with the economy - let no one rewrite history in that regard."

"You need to ask the question - not who has the greatest list of goodies, [But] who is going to shine the light for this party and this country? How do we shine a light through Fine Gael thinking so we can give direction to the country?"

"This time last week I believed I could win this contest and there were a small group of people around me who thought I could. But the people around me now believe there is a mood of change in Fine Gael."

"I tweeted a message that being an underdog means nothing if you believe in yourself. That's what we have seen in my campaign for the past week."

Leo Varadkar

"It is great to be here in Cork - I have always enjoyed away games the most."

"We are not Simon versus Leo, Cork versus Dublin, or rural versus urban."

"Our second ambition is hope and ambition, equality of opportunity. We don't believe in equality of outcome, but everyone should have the equal chance to do the best they can. We are also the party of law and order and of security."

"Let nobody say our party is elitist."

"I have heard a lot of talk about compassion from Simon over the past week. I agree with most of what he has said. What I cannot agree with is what he has tried to say about me and I want to counter that here tonight. I have served in ministries and roles where I have been able to make a real difference."

"If we were about motherhood and apple pie we would be Greece."

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.

Leo Varadkar
Simon Coveney

Total: 45

Total: 19

Ministers: 17

Ministers: 5

TDs: 16

TDs: 5

Senators: 11

Senators: 8

MEPs: 1

MEPs: 1

Richard Bruton -MinisterSimon Harris - Minister
Frances Fitzgerald - MinisterDamien English - Minister
Michael Ring - MinisterDara Murphy - Minister
Eoghan Murphy - MinisterDavid Stanton - Minister
Sean Kyne - MinisterMarcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister
Joe McHugh - MinisterKate O'Connell - TD
Helen McEntee - MinisterMaria Bailey - TD
Charlie Flanagan - MinisterSean Barrett TD
Paul Kehoe -MinisterHildegard Naughton - TD
Patrick O'Donovan - MinisterPeter Fitzpatrick - TD
Regina Doherty - MinisterTim Lombard - Senator
Mary Mitchell O'Connor - MinisterJerry Buttimer - Senator
Paschal Donohoe - MinisterPaudie Coffey - Senator
Heather Humphreys - MinisterJames Reilly - Senator
Pat Breen - MinisterColm Burke - Senator
Catherine Byrne - MinisterJohn O'Mahony - Senator
Andrew Doyle - MinisterPaul Coghlan - Senator
John Paul Phelan - TDGabrielle McFadden - Senator
Noel Rock - TDDeirdre 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 
Undeclared
Enda Kenny - Outgoing Party Leader *Martin Heydon - Party Chairman *
Michael Noonan - MinisterMichael Creed - Minister
Bernard Durkan - TDSean Kelly - MEP
Mairead McGuinness MEP  

* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement

Irish Independent

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