Tuesday 21 November 2017

Leo Varadkar: ‘I’ve changed my mind and will stay in politics for the long haul’

Fine Gael's Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar arrive with hot drinks for media
Fine Gael's Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar arrive with hot drinks for media
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Leo Varadkar has u-turned on his plan to retire from politics by the age of 51, saying he is now a career politician.

The Social Protection Minister said in 2015 that he had an “exit strategy” because he “definitely” wanted to do something else.

“I don’t see myself in politics at 51. Whatever I do next it will be different, not politics,” he said.

However, as he made his first public appearance since the start of the Fine Gael leadership race Mr Varadkar said he is now in it for the long haul.

The 38-year-old said: “I’m absolutely committed to politics. So long as I feel I’m committed to politics and I do feel I’m making a difference it’s going to be a job and a career for me. So long as the people want me.”

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, who stood alongside Mr Varadkar on Leo Street in north-inner Dublin city centre, said he expects the doctor to be leader for “many, many years”.

Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe today
Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe today
Fine Gael TDs Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar speak to members of the public
Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar at the announcement that Paschal Donohoe is to support his Fine Gael leadership bid
Paschal Donohoe announces his support for Leo Varadkar's bid to be Leader of the Fine Gael party
A Cupcake with the name Leo
Fine Gael TDs Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar arrive with hot drinks for media
Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar today

Read More: Early surge in favour of Leo

The two ministers arrived at the event with coffees and Leo branded cupcakes for the media.

Mr Varadkar has boost into a massive early lead in the race to succeed Enda Kenny but told reporters: “I’m not counting my chickens.”

“I’m really humbled at the level of support I have received from my colleagues. I really looking forward to the hustings and the debates,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said he the “wounds caused by the recession are still very real” but he wants to sign a “social contract” with people.

“Everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed.”

He said that Simon Coveney’s strong Fine Gael history would not put him at a disadvantage with the grassroots of the party who hold 25pc of the vote.

And he promised to reveal a series of policy papers over the coming days.

On Friday, Meath East TD Regina Doherty also declared her support for Mr Varadkar.

"Arising from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s decision to step down after leading Fine Gael for 15 years through thick and thin we now have a vacancy. I will be supporting Leo Varadkar as the next Leader of Fine Gael," she said in a statement.

"For me he simply has all the qualities I want in a leader of Fine Gael and a Taoiseach of our country. For me he is the most impressive politician of my generation."

Read More: 'The most capable politician of my generation' - Senior ministers Donohoe and Flanagan also row in behind Varadkar

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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