Wednesday 21 March 2018

Leo Varadkar will be the next Fine Gael leader, Ivan Yates claims

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

Kathy Armstrong

Leo Varadkar will be the next Fine Gael leader, Ivan Yates has claimed.

As Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to give his highly-anticipated announcement regarding stepping down as Fine Gael leader today, Yates said he thinks Varadkar has the edge over his main rival Simon Coveney.

The former Fine Gael Minister also said he doesn't believe there's enough support for a third candidate.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Yates said: "I don't think there is any possibility of a third candidate getting sufficient traction to get nominated, let alone to run.

"I think this campaign since February has become extremely intensive and there have been meetings all over the counties, Leo and Simon have been going to constituency meetings all over the country and wining and dining councillors and endless smoozing with TDs and senators.

"I think we're now at a point where if you were to ask me to name the voting intentions of the 73 members of the parliamentary party, I think most people have a good idea how 60 of them are voting.

Enda Kenny and inset Ivan Yates
Enda Kenny and inset Ivan Yates

"The way I see the campaign developing is that when it eventually does start there will be a race to get to 40 declarations of support, making it virtually impossible for the other person to win.

"In February I said I think Leo would win and I think Leo is not too far off 40 declarations, basically the cabinet - except for Simon Harris, who is voting for Simon Coveney - have kept their counsel.

"I think a lot of them have made up their mind who they're voting for...

"I think there are a few pivotal figures who have given Leo early momentum, like Paschal Donohoe and Heather Humphreys coming out in favour of Leo.

"While Simon has considerable support in Cork, on doing a head count of say 60, I think Leo is in the high 30s and then maybe there are 13 or so who haven't made up their mind or aren't going to tell anyone.

"I think Leo has the suspension lead and that he will win."

Read More: Kenny hits out over 'gossip' as wait goes on for announcement

The businessman also claimed that speculation over Mr Kenny's departure has been "graceless."

He said: "He did say that he would deal with this after St Patrick's Day and now we're well into May, I think that at best indications he will set a date to step down as Fine Gael leader, perhaps next week and likely set up a polling day, probably for around June 8.

"I think that the Taoiseach's plan is to say that when the new leader is in situ he will stay on yet again as Taoiseach until June 22, which is the next Brexit  EU summit.

"I think that it has been dragged out endlessly and there's growing impatience but I think that because of his 15 years as Fine Gael leader people do want to give him a dignified exit.

"But he is really dragging his swan song into a series of final laps, I would expect that by the end of June we will have a new Fine Gael leader as Taoiseach.

"The new leader will need to talk to Fianna Fail, talk to the Independent Alliance and maybe draw up a new programme for government, so there is a window there where he could stay on as Taoiseach."

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