Tuesday 10 December 2019

Businessman hosts 'secret supper' fundraiser for Varadkar

Thomas Lynch, head of Evofem Biosciences. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Thomas Lynch, head of Evofem Biosciences. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A high-flying businessman who chairs the board of the Mater Hospital hosted a secret fundraising supper for Leo Varadkar this week, the Irish Independent can reveal.

The frontrunner to be the next taoiseach has held a number of fundraising events in recent months, including one on Tuesday night at an exclusive private members' club in Dublin city centre. The event was hosted by Thomas Lynch who is believed to have made a small fortune through his involvement in the pharma sector.

Mr Lynch is currently chairperson of the Dublin East Hospital Group whose remit includes St Vincent's University Hospital and the National Maternity Hospital.

He is also chair of Icon plc, one of the world's largest clinical research organisations and has a colourful CV including a period as chief financial officer at drugs firm Elan.

The Irish Independent understands the Belfast native invited a select group of business people to a 'meet and greet' with Mr Varadkar at the plush Stephen's Green Hibernian Club.

The venue is for members only and their guests, boasting it has "the comfort and privacy you would expect of Ireland's premier private members club".

Read More: A rumble in Rathgar: forget Leo and Simon - Eoghan and Kate is the real feud in FG

Individuals were invited directly by Mr Lynch over email to what was described as "drinks and supper with Leo Varadkar".

"I would be very pleased if you can come to a small group event to meet Minister Varadkar," the invitation said.

It added the venue would only be revealed after the invitee sent their RSVP. Among the political figures to take part were Junior Ministers Eoghan Murphy and Helen McEntee and Senator Frank Feighan.

Forty donors attended the event which took place around the same time that a pre-recorded television interview with Mr Varadkar was being aired on RTÉ's 'Prime Time'.

Wexford TD Michael D'Arcy told the Irish Independent he organised the evening and that all donations were within the Standards in Public Office rules.

In the build-up to the leadership battle supporters of Mr Varadkar expressed concern that Simon Coveney, who comes from a wealthy family background, would be in a position to heavily outspend them.

Speaking to the Irish Independent after Mr Varadkar held a dinner in Dublin's Medley Restaurant last February, one of his Leinster House supporters said: "Coveney doesn't need to fundraise. He has access to money. Simon Coveney is basically Enda Kenny on a yacht."

An estimated 250 tickets are understood to have been sold for that dinner at a cost of €150 each. Mr Varadkar wanted Fine Gael headquarters to put spending restrictions in place but the idea was ruled out as it would be "impossible" to implement.

Neither side was willing to reveal their budget for the contest or the full extent of their fundraising efforts.

Read More: Coveney and Varadkar put their pitches to rural voters

Both told the Irish Independent the biggest spend to date has been postage costs for sending election literature to the party's 21,000 members. This is estimated to have cost in the region of €15,000 each.

They have also produced branded t-shirts, stickers and backdrops for media events.

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Sources in the Coveney camp said they have "no major overheads", although they have brought in outside expertise to help with the campaign.

Mr Lynch was recently involved in the controversy over the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital on the grounds of St Vincent's.

It was claimed he had written a letter warning the Department of Health about potential religious interference in the hospital - but no such letter existed. It later emerged that he had raised concerns at a formal meeting with officials in May 2016.

He was appointed to chair the hospital group by former health minister James Reilly in 2013.

Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader

The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.

That makes each of the 73 members' votes worth 0.9pc of the total ballot.

Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10pc, while the remaining 25pc is rank and file members.

Leo Varadkar
Simon Coveney

Total: 45

Total: 19

Ministers: 17

Ministers: 5

TDs: 16

TDs: 5

Senators: 11

Senators: 8

MEPs: 1

MEPs: 1

Richard Bruton -MinisterSimon Harris - Minister
Frances Fitzgerald - MinisterDamien English - Minister
Michael Ring - MinisterDara Murphy - Minister
Eoghan Murphy - MinisterDavid Stanton - Minister
Sean Kyne - MinisterMarcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister
Joe McHugh - MinisterKate O'Connell - TD
Helen McEntee - MinisterMaria Bailey - TD
Charlie Flanagan - MinisterSean Barrett TD
Paul Kehoe -MinisterHildegard Naughton - TD
Patrick O'Donovan - MinisterPeter Fitzpatrick - TD
Regina Doherty - MinisterTim Lombard - Senator
Mary Mitchell O'Connor - MinisterJerry Buttimer - Senator
Paschal Donohoe - MinisterPaudie Coffey - Senator
Heather Humphreys - MinisterJames Reilly - Senator
Pat Breen - MinisterColm Burke - Senator
Catherine Byrne - MinisterJohn O'Mahony - Senator
Andrew Doyle - MinisterPaul Coghlan - Senator
John Paul Phelan - TDGabrielle McFadden - Senator
Noel Rock - TDDeirdre Clune - MEP
Tony McLoughlin - TD 
Alan Farrell - TD 
Michael D'Arcy - TD 
Tom Neville - TD 
Josepha Madigan - TD 
Pat Deering - TD 
Jim Daly - TD 
Brendan Griffin - TD 
Ciaran Cannon - TD 
Colm Brophy - TD 
Peter Burke - TD 
Fergus O'Dowd - TD 
John Deasy - TD 
Joe Carey - TD 
Neale Richmond - Senator 
Catherine Noone - Senator 
Paddy Burke - Senator 
Martin Conway - Senator 
Michelle Mulherin - Senator 
Maura Hopkins - Senator 
Ray Butler - Senator 
Frank Feighan - Senator 
Maria Byrne - Senator 
Joe O'Reilly - Senator 
Kieran O'Donnell - Senator 
Brian Hayes - MEP 
Enda Kenny - Outgoing Party Leader *Martin Heydon - Party Chairman *
Michael Noonan - MinisterMichael Creed - Minister
Bernard Durkan - TDSean Kelly - MEP
Mairead McGuinness MEP  

* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement

Irish Independent

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