Thursday 23 November 2017

Coveney plays coy after Harris attends meetings to plan leadership strategy

Health Minister Simon Harris Picture: Tom Burke
Health Minister Simon Harris Picture: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has refused to admit he has signed up Simon Harris as a key ally in his bid to be the next leader of Fine Gael.

The Health Minister is understood to have taken part in meetings where Mr Coveney's strategy for the forthcoming campaign was discussed.

However, Mr Coveney said he met with colleagues "all the time and we talk about all sorts of things".

"There are a lot of conversations within Fine Gael at the moment about the future of the party and where it's going, and where its value system lies.

"I'm not going to make any comment in relation to Simon Harris, he can speak for himself," he said.

Mr Harris has not yet publicly declared his support for any candidate, but is widely expected to back the Cork South Central TD over Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.

Mr Coveney has said that following the leadership race either himself or his successors in the Department of Housing will have to follow through "on a long and difficult process to get consensus for how to move forward on water".

He said it would take six weeks to bring forward legislation to formally end routine domestic billings and introduce a penalty system for excessive usage.

There is now a growing expectation within Fine Gael that Taoiseach Enda Kenny will step down shortly after he returns from a trade mission to Canada next week.

Speculation is now centring on an announcement in the second week, ensuring a new leader would be in place before the summer.

Mr Kenny, who turned 66 on Monday, remained coy on the issue when questioned yesterday.

"I've never lacked in energy. I'm looking forward to the visit to Canada. They've requested for me to go there for the last five or six years," he said.

He said the two-day trip next Thursday and Friday would be an opportunity to meet the Irish communities in Montreal and Toronto, and to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"I never lacked either the resolve or the energy, but as I said I will make my position very clear to my parliamentary party in the near future," he said.

Irish Independent

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