Wednesday 22 November 2017

Leo Varadkar denies 'love-bombing' TDs with 'pizza and beer' ahead of Fine Gael leadership challenge

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent

LEO Varadkar has denied he is ‘love-bombing’ TDs in a bid to garner support for a future bid for the Fine Gael leadership.

It comes after Mr Varadkar spent the weekend meeting TDs in the West and on the back of a report that he invited a TD for pizza and beer after a recent football match in Croke Park.

Fine Gael TD Peter Burke
Fine Gael TD Peter Burke

The Social Protection Minister was this morning attended the launch of National Jobs Week at an Intreo jobs centre in his Blanchardstown constituency.

It was reported today that Mr Varadkar invited Longford Westmeath TD Peter Burke for a pizza and drinks after the clash of Dublin and Westmeath in Croke Park in July.

Kevin McManamon of Dublin celebrates
Kevin McManamon of Dublin celebrates

Mr Varadkar rejected any suggestion that this was part of an attempt to ingratiate himself with colleagues in advance of any contest to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael.

He said he’s been a member of Fine Gael since he was a teenager so he’s “well-known to a lot of people in the party”.

“It wouldn’t be the first time I had a beer or a pizza with somebody – or the last,” he added.

Mr Varadkar visited the National Ploughing Championships last week and also met colleagues in both Galway constituencies, but he brushed off questions on whether or not this had anything to do with his leadership ambitions.

He said the visits were “largely on Social Protection business”.

He pointed out that agencies under his remit like the Citizens Information Board and Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) were exhibiting at the Ploughing Championships.

He said he met Fine Gael TDs Tom Neville and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy there, but that “you tend to bump into TDs at these [events]”.

He also met Galway East’s Ciarán Cannon in recent days and posted a picture online of himself sampling oysters with Galway West TDs Seán Kyne and Hildegarde Naughton.

Mr Vardakar insisted his visit to Galway was predominantly relating to his ministerial brief as well, taking in an Intreo Centre in the city and visiting a rural social scheme with Independent Alliance minister Seán Canney.

He added that Mr Canney “needless to say will not have a vote in the Fine Gael contest.”

Mr Vardakar has made no secret of his ambition to lead Fine Gael but has also repeatedly pointed out that there’s no vacancy for the position at present.

He was asked this morning if he’s ‘love-bombing’ TDs.

“No,” was the blunt answer from the Social Protection Minister.

Launching Jobs Week he said there will be 150 events around the country aimed at jobs seekers, people who want to change careers and employers.

“They include things like careers fairs, career advice, one-to-one job coaching, advice on CV preparation and also seminars for employers, really letting employers know a little bit more about how we can match them with jobseekers,” Mr Varadkar said.

He said that unemployment is down to 8.5pc from 15pc at its peak and that he wants to see the jobless rate halved again in the next five years.

“We have one specific target for this year which was to reduce the number of people who were in long-term unemployment by 20,000. I can now say with absolute certainty that we will achieve that target and exceed that target this year,” Mr Varadkar added.


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