Saturday 16 December 2017

FG's next deputy leader will get job of recruiting young talent into ranks

Denis Naughten wants assurances on health services in Roscommon. Photo: Tom Burke
Denis Naughten wants assurances on health services in Roscommon. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Leo Varadkar wants a major overhaul of the role of Fine Gael deputy leader in a bid to boost party membership numbers and recruit more young people to its ranks.

It's understood that no decisions have yet been made as to who will fill the post that will become a more powerful position in the party.

However, Mr Varadkar's defeated leadership rival Simon Coveney and another minister, Heather Humphreys, are among those under consideration for the job.

Mr Coveney is also being linked to the role of Tánaiste.

The next deputy leader will be tasked with broadening the party's membership to bring in more women and younger people as well as increase its numbers in urban areas.

A source said: "One of Mr Varadkar's big priorities was to reflect the fact that Ireland is now a much younger cosmopolitan society, whether you live in the country or the cities.

Michael Harty feels he has been 'taken for granted'. Photo: Tom Burke
Michael Harty feels he has been 'taken for granted'. Photo: Tom Burke

"He thinks Fine Gael should be reflecting that and will be a big responsibility of whoever becomes deputy leader."

The new deputy leader will also be expected to play an active role in selecting candidates for elections and expanding the numbers of the membership base overall.

They will also have responsibility for driving Mr Varadkar's reform agenda, which he set out in a document he published during the leadership contest.

Dr James Reilly, a Fine Gael senator, served as deputy leader under Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr Varadkar is expected to be elected Taoiseach by the Dáil when it returns from a week-long break next week.

Before then, however, Mr Varadkar will hold a series of meetings with Independent TDs supporting the Government, including the five members of the Independent Alliance.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten is set to meet Mr Varadkar tomorrow. A source said Mr Naughten won't seek to renegotiate the Programme for Government, but he wants requests he made for improvements to health services in Roscommon honoured in the lifetime of the Government.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone, meanwhile, is set to seek additional resources for childcare, after last week stating publicly that she will be pushing for extra funding in Budget 2018.

Clare Independent TD Michael Harty, who has been supporting the Government, was quoted at the weekend saying he feels like he's been "taken for granted" over the last year. Mr Varadkar is also going to meet him. A spokesman said of the planned meetings: "This is a good opportunity to discuss their priorities and hear their concerns."

Mr Varadkar will also meet Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. He has pledged the 'confidence and supply' deal between his party and Fianna Fáil will be honoured.

Irish Independent

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