Fine Gael hustings: 'I was worried you were pulling out' - Leo comes out swinging
Leo Varakdar came out swinging at last night's Fine Gael leadership hustings with a stinging quip about rival Simon Coveney's trailing campaign.
"When you arrived a little bit late I was a bit worried you were pulling out," Mr Varadkar said to the Housing Minister.
Mr Coveney said "my response to that is - you wish."
He had to go on the offensive after Thursday night's debate in Dublin where many believed Mr Coveney had the edge.
And he certainly got a great welcome with a large round of applause in Carlow where both TDs in the local constituency, Pat Deering and John Paul Phelan, are supporters.
His opening gambit to have a swipe at Mr Coveney's position in the race came after the first hustings where Mr Coveney didn't hold back in criticisms of Mr Varadkar and injected his contributions with a sense of humour that surprised many.
While Mr Coveney is widely seen to have won the Dublin debate last night's face-off was a closer affair.
However, there was a sense that Mr Coveney was more comfortable with the rural audience.
Mr Varadkar made the odd clunky remark like when he said he was "conscious" he wasn't in Dublin adding: "So I want to say something about the regions and rural Ireland."
Mr Coveney was able to point to his time as agriculture minister and there's no doubt his ambition to "rebalance" Ireland goes down well outside the capital.
Both men spoke of the need for unity after the contest, a message that went down well with the party faithful.
Mr Varadkar holds a considerable lead among members of the parliamentary party, including many of his rural colleagues. Mr Coveney may have had a slim victory in last night's clash.
But it's still highly unlikely he can claw back Mr Varadkar's lead among ministers, TDs and Senators - the group that has the greatest clout in next week's vote to decide on Taoiseach Enda Kenny's successor.
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.
|Richard Bruton -Minister||Simon Harris - Minister|
|Frances Fitzgerald - Minister||Damien English - Minister|
|Michael Ring - Minister||Dara Murphy - Minister|
|Eoghan Murphy - Minister||David Stanton - Minister|
|Sean Kyne - Minister||Marcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister|
|Joe McHugh - Minister||Kate O'Connell - TD|
|Helen McEntee - Minister||Maria Bailey - TD|
|Charlie Flanagan - Minister||Sean Barrett TD|
|Paul Kehoe -Minister||Hildegard Naughton - TD|
|Patrick O'Donovan - Minister||Peter Fitzpatrick - TD|
|Regina Doherty - Minister||Tim Lombard - Senator|
|Mary Mitchell O'Connor - Minister||Jerry Buttimer - Senator|
|Paschal Donohoe - Minister||Paudie Coffey - Senator|
|Heather Humphreys - Minister||James Reilly - Senator|
|Pat Breen - Minister||Colm Burke - Senator|
|Catherine Byrne - Minister||John O'Mahony - Senator|
|Andrew Doyle - Minister||Paul Coghlan - Senator|
|John Paul Phelan - TD||Gabrielle McFadden - Senator|
|Noel Rock - TD||Deirdre 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 - Minister||Michael Creed - Minister|
|Bernard Durkan - TD||Sean Kelly - MEP|
|Mairead McGuinness MEP|
* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement
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