'Tough and caring' - MEP Mairead McGuinness backs Simon Coveney's leadership campaign
SIMON Coveney has received a campaign boost tonight as prominent MEP Mairead McGuinness weighed in behind him with two days to got before Fine Gael members prepared to vote for the next party leader.
Ms McGuinness was widely suspected to be supportive Mr Coveney’s leadership bid but had said she would not declare for either candidate until the campaign hustings took place.
However, in a statement given exclusively to Independent.ie, the MEP said she was backing the Minister for Housing because he had shown “grit and determination” by staying in the leadership race when others thought he should step aside.
“In sticking to the race, he has shown a particular passion for leadership and he has also demonstrated an important leadership attribute in not giving up when the going gets tough,” she said.
“He has taken his message to the country - to the membership - and the party is the better for that open and frank debate about the direction our party should take,” she added.
Ms McGuinness attend a Coveney rally in Cavan on Tuesday night but told the audience she was “keeping her counsel” on her voting intentions until after the leadership hustings. Ms McGuinness’s support means Mr Coveney now has 21 votes to Leo Varadkar’s 46.
Ms McGuinness said at time when there are “deep divisions at EU level” Fine Gael needs a leader who will bring a message of unity to voters.
“I admire his determination to bring that message to our membership and for raising the campaign by robust debate at the hustings,” she added.
“He has shown that he is a fighter and at the same time he has shown how he is capable of uniting people.
“I have known Simon since 2004, when he served as a member of the European Parliament and gained huge respect for his work on a whole range of issues, including human rights.
“I have seen at first hand his capacity to listen. It is that capacity to listen which will be especially important as Taoiseach and Party leader.
“Simon Coveney is tough when he needs to be and caring where that too is required.
"His concern about homelessness is deep and having dealt with him on homelessness issues I know that he is passionate about finding solutions to restore people's dignity and their lives,” she added.