Leo Varadkar slams Simon Coveney over 'divisive and dishonest' compassionate policies
SOCIAL Protection Minister Leo Varadkar launched a scathing attack on his Fine Gael leadership rival Housing Minister Simon Coveney by accusing him of "a dishonest" portrayal of his own commitment to compassionate policies.
Mr Varadkar used the fourth and final Fine Gael leadership hustings debate in Cork, attended by more than 800 party members and politicians, to insist he remains on course to succeed Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Friday.
"I have heard a lot of talk about compassion from Simon over the past week. I agree with most of what he has said," the Dublin TD 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 Varadkar also claimed that if Fine Gael committed itself to "motherhood and apple pie" policies it would be electoral "Greece".
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," he said.
"(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."
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."
He said that this time last week his campaign was in difficulty but it’s in a much stronger position now.
“This time last week I believed I could win this contest. There were a lot of other people who probably didn’t. As the week as gone on the group of people around me are starting to believe,” Mr Coveney said.
At one point 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.
He said being in Government“ is all about decisions”. “What are you going to fund and what are you not going to fund? If you are not going to answer those questions you don't have a philosophy you just have a passionate speech." This was a thinly veiled attack on Mr Coveney’s pitch to be a ‘catch all’ candidate.