Monday 18 December 2017

'People responded to pressure by backing who was ahead' - Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney plans to continue in his bid
Simon Coveney plans to continue in his bid
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Housing Minister Simon Coveney believes it is possible that some Fine Gael party members who have declared for Leo Varadkar will still vote for him in the leadership election.

Mr Coveney said he thinks some party members bowed to pressure and declared for Mr Varadkar as he was "ahead from the beginning".

Speaking on The Last Word with Matt Cooper on TodayFM, the Housing Minister said he is still confident he can become leader of Fine Gael.

"When the momentum swings slightly in one direction, then that often triggers a huge shift in the centre ground as people want to be on the right side of a result and that is what happened in the first couple of days," he said.

"All it takes is for half a dozen people who declared for Leo Varadkar to switch...and that is possible in our view."

Mr Coveney said he is not the kind of person who "gives up on things because I got off to a bad start".

He added that he knew the Social Protection Minister would be ahead from day one, but believes the intense pressure on other Fine Gael members to declare early may have resulted in them backing who was ahead.

"I don't hold that against anybody, but that is the reality of politics," he said.

When asked why he would make a good leader, Mr Coveney said: "I really do believe in the concept of social justice, that’s why I’m in politics. Of course we should look after the person who gets up early in the morning and goes to work and pays for everything, but we need to do more than that, because the people who don’t get up in the morning need to have an incentive."

Speaking earlier today, the Cork TD said that, under his leadership, Fine Gael would attempt to 're-balance' Ireland by growing cities like Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford to act as a counterweight to Dublin and the eastern seaboard.

The Cork TD said such regional cities must double in size if Ireland is to avoid a dangerous concentration of population, economic development and infrastructure in Dublin.

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