Wednesday 14 November 2018

Five senior ministers declare for Varadkar as Paschal Donohoe adds support

12 TDs, including Junior minister Helen McEntee, formally declare for Social Protection Minister

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney Photo: Frank McGrath
Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney Photo: Frank McGrath

Philip Ryan, Niall O'Connor, Kevin Doyle and Ryan Nugent

SOCIAL Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is expected to be supported by at least five Cabinet ministers, including Paschal Donohoe, in his bid to become the next leader of Fine Gael.

Last night Arts and Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys declared that she was backing her Mr Varadkar to take over as leader of the party.

Speaking on the RTE Six One news Ms Humphreys said: "He's decisive, he's courageous, he's hard working he has all the skills that I believe are necessary not alone to lead the Fine Gael party but also to lead the country."

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor also pledged her support for Varadkar. She said his leadership would be "energetic and inspiring".

She described the Dublin West TD as someone with "the capacity to make bold decisions and the political courage to tell people what they need, not necessarily just they want to hear".

"He is man of integrity, of ability, of passion and of steel. He is a man who is guided by strong principles. That work should be rewarded, that opportunity should be equal and that big ideas are required to deal with big problems.

TDs declaring their support for Leo Varadkar at Leinster House. Picture: Niall O'Connor
TDs declaring their support for Leo Varadkar at Leinster House. Picture: Niall O'Connor

"He is right person to lead this party, and more importantly, this country," she said.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor’s constituency colleague Maria Bailey is backing Simon Coveney.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe have declare their support for Leo while Education Minister Richard Bruton has also thrown his political weight behind his fellow Dublin minister.

Speaking outside the Department of Education in Dublin, Mr Bruton admitted that he carefully considered throwing his own hat in the ring for the leadership.

But he said believes Mr Varadkar and Housing Minister Simon Coveney are “best placed” to succeed Enda Kenny as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael.

Mr Flanagan, the foreign affairs minister, has also pledged his support to Mr Varadkar, saying he "undoubtedly reflects a changing Ireland, a diverse Ireland".

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Flanagan said that Mr Varadkar is "courageous, dynamic and hard-working".

"I believe he has all the qualities to make a very good leader. We're fortunate to have two candidates of superior quality.

"Simon Coveney has been a great minister and he will continue to be, but I'm opting for Leo Varadkar."

Mr Flanagan said that Mr Varadkar is a "straight talker" who has the "capacity to reach out".

On Thursday afternoon a spokesman for Leo Vardkar's campaign confirmed names of 12 sitting TDs who are backing his campaign including junior Ministers Sean Kyne, Helen McEntee, Eoghan Murphy and Joe McHugh.

Other TDs listed are Colm Brophy, Peter Burke, Ciaran Cannon, Michael D’Arcy, Pat Deering, Brendan Griffin, Josepha Madigan, Noel Rock, Alan Farrell, Jim Daly  and John Paul Phelan.

Helen McEntee said: "Leo Varadkar is the person to lead Fine Gael. He has the experience, determination and courage to lead our party. Look at the fresh new approach he has taken to politics, look at how he interacts with people, look at his vision for a more forward-thinking and open Ireland. This country needs a leader for the 21st century and Leo is that person."

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has now also publicly backed Leo Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership race.

The Dun Laoghaire TD said this afternoon that she believes Mr Varadkar is the person to deal with the challenges facing the country.

She said his leadership would be "energetic and inspiring".

The other ministers are expected to announce their intentions either later today or tomorrow.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has so far received the backing of Health Minister Simon Harris.

Tanaiste and Justice Frances Fitzgerald announced she would not be running but has so far not revealed who she will be supporting.

“I have been touched by the encouragement and support I have received,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald issued a statement saying she looks forward to “the campaign and the bright future ahead for Fine Gael”.

She did not indicate who she would be supporting.

Varadkar campaign sources said it was unclear how Agriculture Minister Michael Creed will vote.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan are not expected to reveal who they will vote for.

Around 15 backbench TDs and junior ministers are shortly expected to announce they are backing Mr Varadkar.

Mr Coveney launched his bid for the Fine Gael leadership today with declarations from ministers Simon Harris, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Damien English and David Stanton.

His message will be built around “strong, positive government with big ideas”.

“As far as I’m concerned I’m fighting for the soul of this party,” he said.

Mr Coveney said he believes the new leader should not just manage an economy but also focus on making people’s lives better.

He said his manifesto will be an attempt to “re-balance this country away from the dominance of Dublin so that rural people and rural parishes can believe in their futures again.”

Asked whether he has the X Factor, Mr Coveney said: “That depends on what you describe as the X Factor. For me it’s about honest, strong, deliver.

“I don’t think that a family living in a hotel room this evening is looking for a Taoiseach with X Factor. They are looking for a Taoiseach who’ll solve their problems.”

Earlier, various TDs and Senators told Sean O'Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 who they were backing in the race for the next leader of Fine Gael.

Fine Gael's Deputy Leader, James Reilly is supporting Simon Coveney and has submitted his resignation to the parliamentary party.

"I believe he has the temperament, a hardworking ethos, a sense of collegiality, not afraid to take on the hard issues of housing and Irish water," he said. 

"He's an experienced negotiator, he manages to be polite but firm, he doesn't antagonise people.  The new leader needs to be able to negotiate with the Independence Alliance and Fianna Fáil."

Damien English, junior minister at the Dept of Housing, unsurprisingly confirmed that he will support Mr Coveney.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes told the show that he would be supporting Mr Varadkar for leader, saying he feels he will appeal to a younger generation.

"He has grown into a politician of some standing in recent years since his election and, I think, more than anything else he really appeals to a diverse Ireland; and Ireland that is rapidly changing and I think at him at the helm he will do very well," he said. 

It's early days in the contest but other prominent TDs to have made their allegiance known include Galway East TD from FG, Ciaran Cannon, Alan Farrell from Dublin Fingal and Pat Deering from Carlow-Kilkenny who said they will be backing Mr Varadkar.

Among those supporting Mr Coveney are Maria Bailey, TD for Dun Laoghaire and Kate O’Connell from Dublin Bay South.

A number of Senators have come out this lunchtime to say they will support Mr Varadkar. They are: Sen. Paddy Burke, Sen. Ray Butler,  Sen. Maria Byrne,  Sen. Martin Conway, Sen. Frank Feighan,  Sen. Maura Hopkins,  Sen. Michelle Mulherin,  Sen. Catherine Noone and Sen. Neale Richmond.

Fine Gael to open polling station in Brussels as voting preparation underway

FINE Gael will install polling booths in every constituency in the country, as well as in Brussels, to allow members to vote in the upcoming leadership contest.

It’s understood the hustings - which allow candidates to make their pitches to Fine Gael members - will run over the course of days.

Voting for members will be held from Monday May 29 - Thursday June 1 with the ballot stations open from 6pm-10pm.

Fine Gael members of the parliamentary party will attend a special meeting on Friday June 2, during which they will cast their votes. The parliamentary makes up 65pc of the vote, followed by the wider membership (25pc) and councillors (10pc).

The count itself will take place in Dublin.

Fine Gael is to put in place an ethics committee to oversee the election process.

There will be at least one polling booth in every constituency outside of Dublin, with two being opened in the capital - one northside and one southside.

Two in Dublin: one northside and one southside

There will also be a polling station in brussels, with many Fine Gael members living and working in the EU Parliament.

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