Friday 23 February 2018

Most robust debate yet in battle for FG

Simon Coveney. Picture: Collins
Simon Coveney. Picture: Collins

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

The tone of the debates for the Fine Gael leadership grew more robust last night, with Housing Minister Simon Coveney and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar taking swipes at each other over their roles in the party's disastrous general election.

At the third hustings, Mr Coveney again proved an effective debater as he told the audience of 800 in Galway that the clash needs to be focussed on "plain talk".

He recorded the first real score of the night when he criticised the manner in which cities and towns such as Galway, Sligo and Castlebar were regarded as the "regions".

"There's much talk in Dublin of reaching out to the 'regions'," he said. "It frustrates me when people talk about the West of Ireland as being all drab," he said.

And Mr Coveney also landed the first blow on his rival as he hit out at Mr Varadkar for laying the blame for Fine Gael's disastrous election on others.

"I was responsible for policy. Leo also played a leading role. He was responsible for communication. We got it wrong. We need to be humble enough to admit it."

Mr Varadkar responded by saying he is not shirking responsibility for the election result. He said the committee he headed up was stood down, as was the one Mr Coveney was involved in.

There were terse exchanges when Mr Varadkar appeared to suggest that candidates such as him in Dublin had outperformed those such as Mr Coveney in Cork. Mr Coveney replied: "It's good to see the party does well in Dublin when there is a leader from outside of Dublin."

Mr Varadkar responded: "I guarantee that if there is a leader in Dublin we will win a seat in Cork South Central. I can top the poll Simon".

Mr Coveney replied: "That's because we have a great candidate in Jerry Buttimer."

In his address, Mr Varadkar chose to focus on the same themes that were contained in the speeches he delivered at the hustings in Dublin and Carlow. He spoke about party reform and the need to avoid costly court settlements in the future, like the one incurred as a result of the John Perry case.

Fine Gael, he said, is the the party of Europe, the party of compassion. Fine Gael was a family, he told the 800 delegates present. Like the content, the tactics were also the same.

He attacked Sinn Fein's mechanism to elect its leader Michelle O'Neill "without any vote behind closed doors". This, he said, wouldn't happen under his leadership.

Mr Varadkar was confident and upbeat as he listed out his achievements in Social Protection: Increases to the money given to carers, reform of the farm assist.

Mr Coveney pushed his experience in agriculture and the marine and highlighted his achievements in both.

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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