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Noonan backs Donohoe to be Fine Gael leader as pressure mounts on Varadkar


Michael Noonan and Paschal Donohoe join Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan on the Floating Voter
Feb 4, 2020

Michael Noonan and Paschal Donohoe join Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan on the Floating Voter Feb 4, 2020

Michael Noonan and Paschal Donohoe join Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan on the Floating Voter Feb 4, 2020

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is an ideal candidate for the Fine Gael leadership, according to his predecessor Michael Noonan.

With pressure mounting on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar over his party's campaign strategy, Mr Noonan claims it was an "open secret" he wanted Mr Donohoe to replace Enda Kenny as leader in 2017.

Noonan backs Donohoe to be Fine Gael leader as pressure mounts on Varadkar.

While taking part in a joint interview with Mr Donohoe on Independent.ie's 'Floating Voter' podcast, the party grandee said he has "no doubt at all" that the Dublin Central TD will some day be leader.

Mr Noonan, who is retiring from Leinster House after 39 years, expressed "huge confidence" in Mr Donohoe and said he is in "no doubt" about his leadership potential.

"I think it is an open secret that I wanted him to run as leader of the party when Enda [Kenny] stood down but he stepped back, he didn't take that," he added.

The Fine Gael grandee also said Mr Varadkar should reshuffle his Cabinet if re-elected, including Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

"If Fine Gael is fortunate enough to be part of the next government, it will be highly unusual for the Taoiseach to appoint ministers to the same cabinet positions," he said.

"If you look historically, people who get re-elected, the Taoiseach always reshuffles, changes it around, brings in new people, assigns people to new roles," he added.

However, he said it would be a "tragedy for the country" if Mr Donohoe did not remain as Finance Minister.

In a rare interview, Mr Noonan said he wanted to warn voters about what he sees as the economic threat posed by Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.

He attacked Fianna Fáil, saying there are not enough people in its parliamentary party who "understand how the economy works".

He described Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty as a good debater, but also called him "arrogant" and "overconfident".

"He's not cautious enough for finance," he said.

Mr Noonan questioned Sinn Féin's suitability for office, citing how former Sinn Féin finance minister in Stormont Máirtín Ó Muilleoir sought permission from an unelected party member to sign off on a controversial renewable energy scheme in the North.

"He was looking for permission to make a decision, and he was the finance minister. Do you think I was ringing some 5'8 in west Limerick to get permission to do things in the budget?" he asked.

Mr Donohoe said the election campaign has been "really unpredictable" and conceded his own seat might even be in trouble. "This is a really vital election that could have huge consequences," he added.

Mr Noonan said the public are not rejecting Fine Gael's policies, but elections are "rarely about the past and mostly about the future". He said voters are more inclined to look at the problems in their lives than the economic success of the past.

He said Fine Gael should continue to argue that its polices will provide more houses, lower rents and better health services.

Both men warned that promises being made by other parties to pensioners will have long-term consequences.

Mr Donohoe said it was "very attractive" to say the State pension age could be reduced, but Sinn Féin and Labour will ultimately put payments at risk for future generations.

"The social insurance fund going into deficit is a recipe for the pensioners of the future not having the level of support that the pensioners of now today have," he said.

He said if the fund, which pays for pensions, is in deficit then future governments will have to increase taxes.

Mr Noonan said Mr Donohoe was being "optimistic" as he was basing his calculations on current employment levels.

"If the business cycle goes down, as it inevitably will, and you have 100,000 less working, well, then you're at very big risk about actually funding pensions at the present level."

Mr Noonan also addressed his own State pension of around €88,527 a year.

"All public servants get a pension when they've done 40 years which is about half the salary and you get a lump sum, so that's what I get as well," he said. He added he would have to live to 120 to receive the €2.7m his pension has been estimated to be worth.

Irish Independent

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