This country needs a debate, not a coronation, says Harris
A debate is what this country needs rather than a coronation, Health Minister Simon Harris has said.
In an attempt to rally the Simon Coveney team, Mr Harris said the Fine Gael leadership contest "is only just beginning".
"Not one vote has been cast yet," he said, adding that a substantive policy debate was needed.
"We don't need a coronation. What we need is a debate. We need a conversation. We need every single member of this party, and indeed the public, to have an opportunity to talk about the vision of this country."
The minister was speaking as Mr Coveney launched his policy priorities in Dublin yesterday following a tense day where he consulted his family and supporters about the possibility of dropping out of the race.
Despite the massive lead built up by Leo Varadkar in the race to succeed Enda Kenny, the Cork South Central TD has decided to stay the course. He said he wanted to "ensure this party picks the right person for the job of leading the party in the future but also leading the country".
"I am also determined to challenge people who intend on leading this country in terms of where they come from and how they make decisions. And what set of priorities are they going to bring forward in terms of Fine Gael politics for the future. That is a big, big part for me of what this process needs to be about," he said.
Those present included junior ministers Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Damien English and David Stanton, TDs Kate O'Connell and Maria Bailey, and senators James Reilly, Jerry Buttimer and Tim Lombard.
Mr Harris told them: "The last few days have been tough. There's no denying that. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Simon is ready and rearing to go. It's in tough times that leadership matters."
He said people must know what candidates stand for and how they want to run the country.
Mr Varadkar said he was "pleased" that Mr Coveney had decided to stay in the contest "because it was important that we take this debate and this opportunity to reinvigorate Fine Gael to the councillors and the members across the country".
While insisting that the contest was still alive, Mr Varadkar added: "The campaign is going very well, I am heartened by the level of support that I have received."
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.
|Richard Bruton -Minister||Simon Harris - Minister|
|Frances Fitzgerald - Minister||Damien English - Minister|
|Michael Ring - Minister||Dara Murphy - Minister|
|Eoghan Murphy - Minister||David Stanton - Minister|
|Sean Kyne - Minister||Marcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister|
|Joe McHugh - Minister||Kate O'Connell - TD|
|Helen McEntee - Minister||Maria Bailey - TD|
|Charlie Flanagan - Minister||Sean Barrett TD|
|Paul Kehoe -Minister||Hildegard Naughton - TD|
|Patrick O'Donovan - Minister||Peter Fitzpatrick - TD|
|Regina Doherty - Minister||Tim Lombard - Senator|
|Mary Mitchell O'Connor - Minister||Jerry Buttimer - Senator|
|Paschal Donohoe - Minister||Paudie Coffey - Senator|
|Heather Humphreys - Minister||James Reilly - Senator|
|Pat Breen - Minister||Colm Burke - Senator|
|Catherine Byrne - Minister||John O'Mahony - Senator|
|Andrew Doyle - Minister||Paul Coghlan - Senator|
|John Paul Phelan - TD||Gabrielle McFadden - Senator|
|Noel Rock - TD||Deirdre 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 - Minister||Michael Creed - Minister|
|Bernard Durkan - TD||Sean Kelly - MEP|
|Mairead McGuinness MEP|
* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement