Kenny confident Eamonn Coghlan in the running for a seat
TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar has accused Independent politicians in the Dail and Seanad of being “for everything popular and against everything unpopular”.
Mr Varadkar said that being a non-party candidate is currently “all the rage”, adding that independents rarely get challenged over their “populist” stance.
The Fine Gael TD was speaking at the launch of the Dublin West by-election campaign of the party's candidate and former Olympic runner, Senator Eamonn Coghlan.
But in a surprise attack on independents, Mr Varadkar said it is “very convenient” for those who are not aligned to a political party.
“Independents as we know today are all the rage. There is 30 now, I think, in the Dail. Quite a lot in the senate as well. And it's a very convenient thing to be an independent of course because you can be for everything popular and against everything unpopular and nobody ever challenges you on that,” Mr Varadkar told a group of over 100 Fine Gael supporters.
“Eamonn (Coghlan) actually decided not to go down that route of being an independent who appeals to populism and is against everything bad and for everything good. He decided to do something very different as a politician and a senator. He decided to concentrate on a few important issues and make the system work for him,” Mr Varadkar added.
Addressing the audience, which included several sport stars, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that he was first elected in a by-election prompted by the death of his father.
He compared the contest to a “tug-of-war”, adding that transfers will play a major part.
Mr Kenny described Mr Coghlan as a “different type of candidate”.
“He is not a hack politician. He is not in the ruts that others get lost in,” the Taoiseach said.
Mr Kenny quoted Thomas Jefferson before telling Mr Coghlan directly that he believes he will win the by-election next week.”You're in the second quarter. We all want to see you come off the last bend, but you can't do that unless you have the fuel, and the fuel is the votes of the people,” Mr Kenny added.
“I believe in you... to quote Thomas Jefferson: ‘For populism, swim with the current, for principle, stand like a rock' – thats what Coghlan is.”
Mr Coghlan was appointed as an Independent senator in 2012 before joining Fine Gael.
He told party members that he initially had no intention of contesting the by-election but later changed his mind.
“I felt the ball was put at my foot, a number of people said ‘Eamonn, will you go for this?' I said: ‘Absolutely no way... then I thought about it and said here is a golden opportunity to represent the people of Dublin West in government.”
The event, which was held at the Luttrellstown Golf Club, was attended by sports stars and musicians including footballer Bernard Brogan, former Olympian Ronnie Delaney, ex-Tipperary manager Babs Keating, boxer Kenneth Egan and singer Finbar Furey.
Ministers Frances Fitzgerald, Michael Noonan, Paul Kehoe and junior ministers Brian Hayes and Tom Hayes were also at the event.