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Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar shaking hands after the results of the Fine Gael Leadership Election were announced at the Mansion House in Dublin yesteday. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins
Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar shaking hands after the results of the Fine Gael Leadership Election were announced at the Mansion House in Dublin yesteday. Pic: Gareth Chaney Collins
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Fine Gael Grassroots: ‘Simon for Tánaiste’

SIMON Coveney could be offered the role of Tanaiste and deputy leader of Fine Gael today, following his loss to Leo Varadkar in the leadership election.

The two are set to meet today to discuss the results of the race, which concluded in the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday, and how to unify the party going forward. What role Mr Coveney will play in Mr Varadkar's team is also expected to be discussed.

Mr Varadkar took 60% of the total poll, finishing with a 51 to 22 lead in the parliamentary party - worth 65% of the polls - and 123 to 100 lead councillors - worth 10% of the poll. However, following a massive nationwide campaign, Mr Coveney took 7,051 of the members - worth 25% of the poll - compared to Mr Varadkar's 3,772 - a 65% to 35% split on a turnout of almost 53%.

Attention has now turned to who Mr Varadkar will appoint to his cabinet and where they will go, with many people suggesting that Mr Coveney will land the number two position in order to unify the membership and the politicians, who backed different candidates in the election. That is a view that has been expressed by people in the grassroots of Fine Gael, and privately by many members of the parliamentary party.

Senator Tim Lombard, who helped to run the Coveney campaign, said that Mr Coveney "won't be afraid and won't be shy" in his meeting with Mr Varadkar today.

He said that Fine Gael will have to continue working with independents and Fianna Fail, and that Mr Varadkar will have to rely on Mr Coveney due to his skills as a negotiator.

"Simon will be pivotal to that," he said.