SIMON Coveney has closed the gap onin the race to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny as the next leader of Fine Gael.
Mr Coveney yesterday made the most definitive statement to date on the leadership issue, saying that he expects Mr Kenny to step down shortly after his St Patrick’s Day visit to the United States.
The Cork representative stressed, however, that Mr Kenny should not have to deal with party members issuing ultimatums or instigating heaves.
In the wake of those comments, bookmakers cut Mr Coveney’s odds to 2/1 from 3/1, closing the gap on Mr Varadkar, who remains the odds-on favourite.
Aoife Heffron, spokeswoman for BoyleSports, said: “We have been inundated with bets over the past two days which resulted in the Cork South-Central TD’s odds being slashed from 3/1 to 2/1.”
“My view is that the Taoiseach should go to Washington for St Patrick’s Day, but I expect the leadership within Fine Gael and ultimately the leadership of the country will be dealt with very quickly after that,” said Mr Coveney, speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics yesterday.
“The Taoiseach should go to Washington because there has been a huge amount of work in preparation for that visit and it’s in the country’s interests that he go. But I think after that visit you will see, I hope, an orderly and quite a quick transition to new leadership within Fine Gael.”
He said Mr Kenny “has been around a long time” and therefore should be trusted to use his own judgement on when to step down.