Thursday 18 January 2018

Varadkar's claim over Cabinet support "simply not true", says Harris

Fine Gael leardership contenders Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar pictured on stage at Carlow IT where Fine Gael were hold the second night of their leadership hustings .Picture Credit:Frank Mc Grath
26/5/17
Fine Gael leardership contenders Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar pictured on stage at Carlow IT where Fine Gael were hold the second night of their leadership hustings .Picture Credit:Frank Mc Grath 26/5/17
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

LEO Varadkar's claim that almost the entire Cabinet is backing his leadership bid is "simply not true", according to Health Minister Simon Harris.

Mr Harris today said there are a number of Cabinet ministers who have yet to declare their intentions ahead of next week's vote.

He said he believes Housing Minister Simon Coveney can still win the contest, adding that his decision not to pull out of the race last week has been "vindicated".

Mr Harris took a swipe at Mr Varadkar over his claim at last night's hustings that he has "brought almost all of Cabinet behind me."

The Wicklow TD said Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan and Michael Creed have not yet declared, adding that there is a number of Independent members of Cabinet that do not have a say in the Fine Gael leadership battle.

"What I'm simply suggesting is that they haven't declared for anybody so for any candidate to stand up and say they've brought together almost all of the Cabinet when there are five Fine Gael members of the Cabinet who have not declared for either candidate - or in the case of myself - have declared for Simon Coveney - it is simply not true," he said.

Simon Harris & Simon Coveney
Simon Harris & Simon Coveney

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Speaking to 'Wicklow This Week' on East Coast FM, Mr Harris said he is not losing sleep over whether he remains Health Minister after the contest.

"No, these things don't obsess me, they don't keep me awake at night."

But he said he believes there does need to be "consistency" in the health portfolio, adding that there have been three ministers in charge in just six years.

"We've had I think three ministers for health in six years, there's been a lot of changes and I think we need a bit of consistency."

The Health Minister denied that he considered running as a compromise candidate last week, when Mr Coveney's campaign appeared to be in crisis.

He indicated however that a discussion took place over whether the campaign should continue.

"I did say to Simon... obviously this was the deciding point. He needed to make the decision and if he was ploughing on he'd have my full support."

Minister Simon Coveney
Minister Simon Coveney

Read More: Fine Gael hustings: 'I was worried you were pulling out' - Leo comes out swinging

Mr Harris said remarks by Mr Coveney last night that Fine Gael needs to be a party that is welcome in all housing estates have shown him that he is backing the right candidate.

He said Ireland should not be led by someone who only wants to represent certain segments of society.

"We'll also ask that the child playing football out on a green in Wicklow today, who may have hunger pains in their stomach, who may have not been to school in a few weeks. We'll also ask how can we help that child as well," Mr Harris said.

"I am not going to lie down and allow the Fine Gael party be dragged to a situation were we are bean counters, where we are just competent economic monitors," he added.

Online Editors

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