Wednesday 17 July 2019

Fine Gael hustings: 'I was worried you were pulling out' - Leo comes out swinging

Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar
Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

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.

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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