Monday 20 November 2017

'The US voted for someone with the X-factor, look how that's turning out' - Coveney responds to 'boring' remark

Housing Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
Housing Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Amy Molloy and Cormac McQuinn

Housing Minister Simon Coveney has hit back at critics who labelled him as "boring" by having a go at Donald Trump, saying: "The US voted for someone with the X-factor, look how that's turning out."

Mr Coveney also had a dig at UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

"Britain decided to vote for Boris Johnson. Do you think Boris Johnson would make a good Prime Minister in the UK? I don’t think so," he said on RTÉ's Prime Time.

In an interview on why his party colleagues should vote for him to be the next Fine Gael leader, Coveney said he "wants to change the country".

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar and the Housing Minister are the two frontrunners to replace Enda Kenny as party leader following his resignation on Wednesday.

Twelve TDs, including junior minister Helen McEntee, all formally declared their support for Varadkar today.

"None of the names who have declared for Leo are a surprise for our team, so we are quite relaxed about that. We still have to take it to the 20,000 members and the 232 councillors that combined have 35pc of the say here. This is a two-week process and we think at the end of that process I look very good," he said.

When asked about his wealthy background and how that would affect his "appeal" factor, Coveney said he would make "no apologies" about where he came from.

"I am who I am, I am someobdy who has been very lucky, very privileged in life. When I grew up, I never wanted for anything.

"I had almost the perfect parents but I also was brought up in a very competitive household and when you get everything that life can give you at an early age, well I believe there is a responsibility that comes with that."

Among the twelve TDs who declared for Varadkar today were Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Earlier this evening, Fine Gael revealed the battlegrounds of the leadership contest between  Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.

Dublin, Carlow town, Ballinasloe in Co Galway and Cork will be the locations for the hustings face-offs between the two contenders.

Fine Gael’s National Executive met this evening to finalise the logistics and ground rules for the leadership contest.

The head-to-head debates begin next Thursday, May 25 in the Red Cow Hotel Dublin, Mr Varadkar’s home city, before concluding with another event in Mr Coveney’s native Cork on Monday May 28 held in the  Clayton Hotel Silver Springs, Cork.

In between will be two other hustings events in the Barrow Centre at IT Carlow town on the Friday and in the Shearwater Hotel Ballinasloe the following night.

The debates will be streamed live on Fine Gael’s Facebook page.

A four-member ethics committee will be empowered by the executive to act as a referee during the leadership contest to ensure that all campaigns comply with the party’s code of conduct, which candidates will be required to sign up to.

It is understood that Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran and chairman Martin Heydon TD are two of the members of the committee.

Under the party’s electoral college system, TDs and senators are apportioned a 65pc weighting in the vote, councillors have 10pc and rank-and-file members have 25pc.

Voting for the party’s councillors and almost 21,000 broader membership will take place from Monday, May 29, to Thursday, June 1, at 26 polling places around the country.

TDs and senators will vote on Friday, June 2.

All votes will be brought to a National Count Centre in Dublin on Friday, 2nd June, where they will be will be verified and counted under the supervision of the National Returning Officer, Gerry O’Connell.

Independent.ie understands that the goal is for the votes to be counted and the new leader to be announced in time for 6pm news bulletins that day.

Nominations to become a candidate close at 5pm this Saturday, though it’s unlikely anyone else will join Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney in the race.

Online Editors

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