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Coveney full of praise for O'Connell - despite her antics during FG battle



Still standing by her man: Kate O’Connell refused to back down after her attacks on Leo
Varadkar’s backers in support of Simon Coveney Photo: Tom Burke

Still standing by her man: Kate O’Connell refused to back down after her attacks on Leo Varadkar’s backers in support of Simon Coveney Photo: Tom Burke

Still standing by her man: Kate O’Connell refused to back down after her attacks on Leo Varadkar’s backers in support of Simon Coveney Photo: Tom Burke

Dublin TD Kate O'Connell might be out of favour with the likely new Taoiseach and her party headquarters - but Simon Coveney still thinks she's "phenomenal".

The first-time representative became something of a household name during the Fine Gael leadership campaign, hitting the headlines on several occasions for her stinging barbs.

Most notably she landed herself in hot water by describing Leo Varadkar's supporters as "choirboys singing for their supper".

After being slapped on the wrist by party officials, she then suggested that if HQ wanted to put manners on her it should ask her "auld lad" how it went for him.

And in recent days her sister and parliamentary advisor, Theresa Newman, was reprimanded after a disparaging social media post about Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor.

Her tweet included a picture of the minister waving a 'Leo' poster at the final hustings in Cork, with the caption: "There's MMOC working to keep her job in the Ministry of Jobs, fair play to her. #CoveneyForLeader."

Senior figures in Mr Varadkar's team had to warn his supporters not to return insult with insult but privately they are furious with Ms O'Connell. The fact she shares a constituency with Mr Varadkar's campaign manager Eoghan Murphy hasn't helped the backroom anger.

But far from embarrassed or apologetic for her attacks, Mr Coveney defended the Dublin Bay South representative saying she has been "phenomenal during my campaign".

"She wears her heart on her sleeve. She's the kind of person that we need in politics. She's passionate. She's energetic. She's really smart. I'm not going to criticise anything," the Housing Minister told RTÉ's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke'.

As one of Mr Coveney's most visible supporters throughout the past two weeks, Ms O'Connell has travelled the country making speeches at town hall-style meetings.

"She is competitive and she likes to win, like I do. She's been a really important part of our campaign," Mr Coveney said.

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He admitted that "people have strayed outside the boundaries a bit," in terms of behaviour, but added: "I've been referred to as Enda Kenny with a yacht by the other side."

However, the Cork TD said the shots fired over the campaign will have to be put to one side after today if Fine Gael is to row in behind the new leader.

"That's where I think both Leo and I need to show some character and leadership at the end of this.

"For my part, if Leo wins I'll shake his hand. I'll wish him well and I'll work with him to make sure the party is stronger at the end of this. I hope he'll do the same if I win," Mr Coveney said.

He added that political contests "are competitive and sometimes friendships are strained" - but "we're on the same side essentially".

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


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