'My auld lad couldn't put manners on me - neither will party,' says O'Connell
Fine Gael TD Kate O'Connell is standing by her description of Leo Varadkar's supporters as "choirboys", saying party headquarters won't be able to "put manners" on her.
The Dublin Bay South representative has been reprimanded by officials for her attack, which took place at a private Fine Gael meeting in Co Clare on Friday night.
However, she told the Irish Independent: "It was 'heat of the campaign'. That's what campaigns are about and I meant every bit of what I said."
In her speech, the Simon Coveney supporter described TDs who have come out to back Mr Varadkar as "choirboys that are singing for their supper".
She also said she was well aware of the "form" of her constituency colleague Eoghan Murphy, who is directing Mr Varadkar's campaign.
Asked what she meant by this, Ms O'Connell said: "Oh, I've no idea."
But noting that the junior minister took part in a 5km run alongside Mr Varadkar yesterday, she added: "More power to him. I was up, running up and down the stairs after three children trying to contain them. I'd imagine I used far more calories than a 5km run."
In comments that are likely to stir further disquiet within Fine Gael, she said the party's general secretary would not be able to "put manners" on her.
"Maybe Tom Curran could give my father or someone a ring to see could my auld lad ever put manners on me," she said.
Party officials contacted the first-time TD after her contribution to the local AGM, which was also addressed by Mr Coveney. Sources say she was warned that her remarks were "close to the line" and that there would be consequences if there was a repeat.
Supporters of Social Protection Minister Mr Varadkar have been told by his campaign team not to respond, but privately a number of TDs have been heavily critical of their colleague.
But Ms O'Connell said: "It must have hit a nerve if a six-minute speech at an AGM in Clare caused such a furore. We'll power on and keep going."
Asked whether she would be giving more speeches over the course of the campaign, she replied: "I'd imagine so. We're all fired up now and I'm looking forward to a positive campaign.
"As you could see this morning we outlined the policy positions of the minister and his vision for Ireland. That's why we're all behind him.
"We fully support him and we fully believe in him. We won't ever give up."
Both sides in the leadership contest have been asked to sign a code of conduct ahead of the vote on June 2.
The rules demand that they engage in a contest free from personal attacks or rancour that could damage the party.