Fine Gael head-to-head to take place tonight

Fine Gael head-to-head to take place tonight
Caroline Gauley grabs a selfie with Simon Coveney during his visit to the Hotel Kilmore, Cavan on Tuesday evening. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

SIMON Coveney and Leo Varadkar will go head to head for the first time in the leadership campaign tonight in the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin.

The first of four hustings, which will continue in Carlow tomorrow, Galway on Saturday, and conclude in the Clayton SilverSprings in Cork on Sunday night, will give members an opportunity to see the two men debate their differences, challenge each other, and address questions. 

Mr Coveney policy pitch has focused on a modernised version of the old Just Society policies of Fine Gael, saying that his focus is on rewarding successful people while protecting vulnerable people. Mr Varadkar's steered more to the right, favouring personal responsibility, while also making more specific promises than Mr Coveney's.

Mr Coveney said that he wants to address geographical and social divisions, providing infrastructure to rebalance the economy away from Dublin, while also making commitments to green policies, an anti-corruption agency, and preparing for a united Ireland within the EU.

Mr Varadkar's promises have been more detailed, promising to simplify taxation while also cutting the top rate and taking lower and middle-income workers out of it. 

He has also promised pension increases, increases in arts spending, and cuts to DIRT and capital gains taxes. He also specifically committed to the M20 Cork-Limerick motorway. 

Mr Coveney has highlighted the lack of costings in Mr Varadkar's document which would explain how these policies would be paid for.

The two candidates policies have come under fire for what they include and what they lack, with neither candidate devoting much time the two biggest challenges for the government - housing and health.

Their stances on unions have also come under scrutiny, with Mr Varadkar saying that he would look at banning certain public sector workers from striking and Mr Coveney agreeing with him in principle. 

Solidarity TD for Cork North Central was one of those who hit out at the two candidates.

"Leo Varadkar was calling for a ban on strikes at lunchtime and by teatime, Simon Coveney was chiming in with support. Hostility to the principles of trade unionism may be part and parcel of the Fine Gael DNA but they are seriously out of kilter with the public mood on this issue," he said.

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