Monday 20 January 2020

Backbenchers believe new leader can unify Fine Gael as race for promotion escalates

Kate O’Connell has vowed to support Leo Varadkar. Picture: Frank McGrath
Kate O’Connell has vowed to support Leo Varadkar. Picture: Frank McGrath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Backbench supporters of Leo Varadkar believe he can unify Fine Gael and win the next general election - and some harbour hopes of promotion to the ministerial ranks.

Meanwhile, those who backed Simon Coveney expressed disappointment but spoke of the need to get behind the new leader.

Dublin Rathdown TD Josepha Madigan was a member of Mr Varadkar's campaign team.

She insisted she had "no expectation" of promotion, adding: "He'll pick the best people for the right job and if I'm in that mix that's great, if I'm not that's fine too. I think the main thing now is that everybody gets behind Leo Varadkar.

"We need to heal any divides or perceived divides that are there within the parliamentary party and the members and bring everybody with us and I think we will."

Ms Madigan said she believed Mr Varadkar was the right person to "harness a new generation" of supporters.

Varadkar supporter and Carlow/Kilkenny TD Pat Deering said he thought the new leader could "re-engage" the general public, but added that the party had "a lot of work to do" ahead of the next election.

"I always said that the new leader would want a period of time to reorganise the party in advance of an election and I think we need that period of time.

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"I think we have an opportunity now to build on the election that we've had over the last couple of weeks."

He said it would be up to Mr Varadkar to pick his ministers but that he'd like to think he had a chance of promotion "at some stage".

His constituency colleague John Paul Phelan also backed Mr Varadkar and would also be hopeful of promotion but said he had no expectations. He did point out that there are other constituencies with two ministers "so it's not impossible".

On Mr Varadkar's success, he said: "Lots of people in politics don't achieve what they could achieve, but Varadkar from an early age was the guy who could have gone all the way - and he has."

Coveney supporter Kate O'Connell said: "Of course I'm disappointed. We put in a great campaign. But we're very positive about winning the membership so decisively."

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She said she would support Mr Varadkar "in my work as a backbench TD and in my committee work".

"I always work as hard as possible for Fine Gael from the moment I joined Fine Gael as a child," she added.

Fellow Coveney supporter Senator Jerry Buttimer said the result was "disappointing" but added: "We have a new leader and we have to get behind him."

Irish Independent

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