Pledges for Varadkar leave Coveney in uphill leader battle

Pledges for Varadkar leave Coveney in uphill leader battle
Minister Simon Coveney. Picture: Sam Boal/

THE Lord Mayor of Cork has said that 'at least' ten members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party who have pledged their support to Leo Varadkar had previously given verbal commitments to Simon Coveney's campaign.

So far, 46 members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party have publicly backed Mr Varadkar in his campaign to replace Enda Kenny as party leader and Taoiseach.

Just 20 have given their support to Mr Coveney, leaving him with a major uphill climb to become the first Cork Taoiseach since Jack Lynch.

His campaign has focused largely on grassroots members, who will vote over the course of next week.

Mr Cahill claimed that the early pledges have undermined these votes, though.

He said, “What is disappointing from Leo’s camp is that they have declared way too early. The whole point of this new process of electing a leader for Fine Gael was to give members and councillors a say. But these declarations have been done in a way that it has made the members’ vote irrelevant.

"It’s a very disingenuous thing to do.” Concerns were growing late last week that Mr Coveney was set to pull the plug on his campaign after the surge in support his opponent.

However, a rousing rally in the Capitol last week, followed by several promising meetings around the country this week, have ensured that the Coveney campaign has kept going ahead of this weekend's debates and next week's vote.

Mr Cahill said, "Up to Saturday lunchtime, it looked very bleak for Simon. With each six hour period from Thursday, it was getting worse.

But, there’s no doubt that at least ten of the people who put a Leo t-shirt on had verbally committed to Simon.

"He is determined to keep going to give members the chance to speak.

It is the only hope he has to pull this rabbit out of the hat. It's a tall order, but he's in a much better position now than last week."

Concerns have been raised that Mr Varadkar is more Dublin-centric in his approach, potentially undermining Cork's development.

While Mr Cahill said that Cork would be better off with a Cork Taoiseach, he is optimistic that Mr Varadkar will continue to push existing plans for the rest of Ireland.

He said, "The 2040 document is essentially Simon’s document, but it shows that the cities outside Dublin need to double in size in a planned way for the benefit of the entire country. Dublin cannot continue to sprawl out in the way it has. I hope that Leo agrees as it is a Fine Gael plan, not a Simon Coveney plan."

Cork, Sligo, Athlone and Galway all need 'proper growth', he added.

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