Coveney slams Varadkar's 'I represent people who get up early' remarks
Leo Varadkar's pledge to represent people who "get up early in the morning" is the kind of talk that has divided society over the past decade, Simon Coveney has claimed.
As the two battle it out to be the next Fine Gael leader, underdog Coveney said that he wants to represent everyone and create a more compassionate society for everyone.
The Housing minister was speaking after former politician Eoghan Harris backed Varadkar's comments this morning on Newstalk Breakfast.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk today, Coveney said: "I'm trying to unite people not divide them, and that kind of language is about separating the public sector from the private sector, separating the achievers from the non achievers.
"In my view a Government has to focus on building an energy within people who are not delivering for society and to themselves to their full potential as well as those who are.
"I think that's the big difference, Eoghan summed it up saying, 'It's about time that somebody talk about this versus that'.
"In my view that is what has damaged politics over the last ten years, the has and the has-nots, the people who are now benefiting from the growing economy and those who have not.
"It's been about the protest politics, the people who go to the streets with politics because they feel they are not part of the sustainable growth story that we are trying to build.
"I want to kick back against that."
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The Cork representative said that he wants to overhaul Fine Gael's image and help individuals to flourish, as well as the economy.
He said: "I have spent a long time not only talking but also acting on it, I hope, that this party needs to represent everyone, whether you are in a sleeping bag on Grafton Street or whether you're someone who is creating 1,000 jobs.
"You have to be pretty important to Fine Gael, as far as I'm concerned in terms of the contribution to society, that to me is the just society way of thinking, which really was born in the 1960s in Fine Gael and should be the moral compass of our party.
"Unfortunately for the last six years, because of the crisis management, Fine Gael has had to lead in terms of trying to build an economy and we haven't been able to focus on that kind of compassionate thinking and language.
"Many people see Fine Gael as a party of economic management, fiscal prudence, competence, focusing on job creation.
"Yes we have to do all that but we also need to be something much bigger than that in terms of building a society that is more content, more generous and actually reaches out to people who are not making the best of themselves today and needs the State's intervention."
He added that he does believe that people shouldn't have everything handed to them.
He said: "In my opinion people should not be paying more than 50 per cent of their income on tax, I think we need to correct that over time.
"I believe politics should be about uniting people not dividing them, it's a core belief I have and why I'm in politics.
"What separates the party I want to lead from the hard-Left is that the State shouldn't be fulfilling for the so-called rights of everyone to everything for free.
"I do believe though that the state should enables people to make the best of themselves and sometimes people need a generous helping hand to help themselves."
Despite Social Protection Minister Varadkar being the firm favourite to be the next Taoiseach, Coveney said that he is still confident he could win the election.
He said: "I wouldn't be in this contest if I didn't think i could win it it or if I didn't think I was the best person for the job.
"I'm not used to being the underdog in politics or in life, normally I'm used to starting in front and trying to stay there so this is an unusual place for me to be.
"It's a real test of character as far as I'm concerned but there is something powerful quite powerful happening within Fine Gael among the 20,000 members."