Scathing attack on Varadkar by O'Dea raises fresh doubts about Government's stability
Published 01/08/2016 | 02:30
Fianna Fáil TD Willie O'Dea has launched a scathing attack on Leo Varadkar, the front-runner to succeed Enda Kenny as Taoiseach - raising serious doubts about the stability of the minority Coalition.
Mr O'Dea's searing comments came after a survey had shown that Mr Varadkar is ahead of leadership rivals in terms of support from the general public and the Fine Gael membership.
The criticisms will also raise concerns about the October Budget as Mr O'Dea, Fianna Fáil's social welfare spokesman, and Mr Varadkar, the Social Protection Minister, must agree the social welfare provisions.
A RedC survey at the weekend showed Mr Varadkar as the most favoured to succeed Enda Kenny, on 37pc support from all voters and 45pc of Fine Gael voters. He is followed by Housing Minister Simon Coveney, on 25pc, and Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, on 12pc.
But Mr O'Dea has accused Mr Varadkar of being obsessed with the Fine Gael leadership contest to the detriment of his work as a minister. He also accused Mr Varadkar of announcing the same initiatives repeatedly, with no focus on seeing them implemented and in the hope that he will have moved jobs before he is called to account.
Mr O'Dea said: "The Minister for Social Protection seems to have become some sort of political version of the cartoon character Road Runner, whose sole aim is to keep moving fast enough to stay ahead of his rivals in the Fine Gael leadership stakes.
"He has taken to re-announcing the same initiative on multiple occasions, often with scant detail as to how (it will be) implemented in practice or what the associated cost will be."
Mr O'Dea added that Mr Varadker was on occasions making announcements about things which had not been cleared by the Cabinet and that this mimicked his behaviour as Health Minister.
He said: "Mr Varadkar seems to believe legislation and detailed scrutiny of proposals are an unnecessary distraction from the serious business of courting popularity. Whether it is pension reform, PRSI entitlements or anti-poverty measures, his intention is to have moved on to greater things before he is held to account for actual delivery."
Mr O'Dea's comments will revive uncertainty about the minority Coalition's stability if Mr Varadkar wins the Fine Gael leadership.
In coalition negotiations earlier this year with Independents and Fianna Fáil, Mr Varadkar was sidelined after complaints from both sets of participants and most of the negotiating was done by the more conciliatory Simon Coveney.
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar declined to comment on Mr O'Dea's remarks.
But Fine Gael sources argued that the Fianna Fáil deputy's comments were very short on specific detail.
A source argued that Mr Varadkar had achieved some very specific things since taking up the Social Protection portfolio in May.
These included piloting the provision for paternity leave through the Dáil and making progress on improved pension provision into the future.
The Fine Gael source also pointed to a scheme with credit unions to help indebted people escape the clutches of loan sharks.
"These are all solid achievements and the minister has more ambitious plans.
"But the summer holidays have started and so have some political remarks which are less than serious," the Fine Gael source said.
Another Fine Gael official said the criticisms by Mr O'Dea were part of a series of comments by others, including Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
"Leo Varadkar may be the one Fianna Fáil fear most," the official added.