Friday 24 November 2017

Leo Varadkar demands TV debate to contest Fine Gael leadership

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney Photo: Collins Dublin
Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney Photo: Collins Dublin

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

Leo Varadkar has told the Fine Gael hierarchy to stop trying to block a televised debate between the contenders to replace Enda Kenny as leader.

The Social Protection Minister wants a live showdown with Simon Coveney because it’s "not just an internal matter for Fine Gael".

Fine Gael officials have indicated to RTÉ and other stations that they do not want a potentially divisive head to head.

But Mr Varadkar told reporters today he has made his views known to the party’s executive council.

"I would like to allow the public and also members of Fine Gael who can’t make it to one of the four hustings to see it," he said.

Asked if would be confident of winning a debate, he said:"I’d never be overly confident about anything. I think a TV debate would be a good thing.

"I think it would be good for the public to see the different candidates, and there may be more than two candidates, talking about the future of the country, what we have to offer, and how we’d take it forward."

The minister was speaking as Taoiseach Enda Kenny was travelling to Canada for what might well be his last foreign trip as leader.

However, Mr Varadkar said he has “given up speculating” when the Taoiseach will step aside.

“I’ve always said the timeline is a matter for Enda Kenny. I’ve never departed from that position,” he said.

And in an apparent swipe at his leadership rival, Mr Varadkar added: “I know Simon has talked about announcements being made shortly after St Patrick’s Day, about it being weeks rather than months.

“As far back as February he was saying that, I’ve never set a deadline. I’ve always said it’s up to the Taoiseach.”

A spokesperson for Simon Coveney told Independent.ie: "The Minister was asked in Limerick last week about a TV debate. He said he would be happy to do one, but that it would need to be worked out by Fine Gael headquarters in terms of the campaign."

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