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News (Top Stories)

Awkward scenes as rural TDs remain on fence in leadership race - despite visit from Coveney

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 19/05/2017

Simon Coveney is one of the contenders to be the next Taoiseach Simon Coveney is one of the contenders to be the next Taoiseach BOTH of Co Clare's Fine Gael TDs remain on the fence in the leadership contest, despite a visit to their constituency by Simon Coveney this afternoon.

There were awkward scenes as Mr Coveney was asked by reporters if he knew which way junior minister Pat Breen and Joe Carey would vote in the battle between him and Leo Varadkar.

Mr Coveney said: "I don't expect them to declare right here. I',m, not going to be putting people under pressure in the spotlight of the media."

Mr Breen and Mr Carey had earlier told reporters the remain undecided and they remained silent while Mr Coveney was being asked questions.

Mr Coveney said: "I'll be having conversations with Pat and Joe just like I've had with all of the other members of the parliamentary party and they'll make their choices and I'll respect those choices."

Fine Gael's Joe Carey Fine Gael's Joe Carey Put to him that he could do with their support today given the number of TDs and senators who've declared for Mr Varadkar, he said:

"We have a contest under way Leo's got off to a good start but there's two weeks to go so we'll see how that plays out."

Mr Coveney is in Ennis Co Clare for engagements relating to his Housing portfolio.

The visit was planned before the leadership contest was sparked by Taoiseach Enda Kenny's announcement that his was stepping aside as party leader on Wednesday evening.

Mr Coveney acknowledged that Mr Varadkar is ahead in the race to win the backing of the parliamentary party, but pointed out that there's two other constituencies, councillors and the wider Fine Gael membership.

He also said: "I'm not naive - I mean clearly there's a lot of momentum with Leo today.

Pat Breen TD Pat Breen TD "And good luck to him. I like Leo Varadkar I think he would be a good leader of the party. But I wouldn't be standing if I didn't think I was the best person for the job given the challenges that the country faces right now and so I intend on making my case."

Mr Coveney said that it's only the second day of the campaign.

"I've been around politics long enough to know that things ebb and flow - let's wait and see how this transpires. I'm not somebody who shirks challenges. I never have."

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is the favourite with the bookies to succeed Enda Kenny, though he is in a close race with Cabinet colleague Simon Coveney Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is the favourite with the bookies to succeed Enda Kenny, though he is in a close race with Cabinet colleague Simon Coveney He was asked if he would consider conceding if it got to the point that there was so much support for Mr Varadkar that there would be no point in continuing the campaign.

Mr Coveney said: "I would be doing a disservice to the party if I started speaking in that language and I don't intend to do that.

"I think a lot of party members want this to be a debate for the party to decide on the kind of country that they want Fine Gale to build".

He also said: "The idea that people would suggest that we should cut this campaign short because one of the constituencies in that discussion clearly has shown more support for Leo than for me so far is not an indication that the thing is over."


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