SIMON COVENEY’S dreams of becoming the first Cork Taoiseach since Jack Lynch looks to be fading— but he has defiantly told doubters that he has ‘never lost an election.’
Rival Leo Varadkar has taken what many believe to be an unassailable lead in the race to replace Enda Kenny.
Despite the huge task ahead of him, Mr Coveney remained bullish that the race was not yet over.
There are still roughly a dozen parliamentary party votes to secure, as well as those of the 232 councillors and the 21,000 rank-and-file party members around the country.
Pledges from Government chief whip Regina Doherty and Junior Minister for Employment Pat Breen saw Mr Varadkar enter the weekend with more than double the number of public backers as Mr Coveney in the crucial parliamentary party votes.
Due to this surge in support from the parliamentary party for Mr Varadkar, Mr Coveney will need to secure more than 60% of the remaining votes from councillors and grassroots party members.
“I have fought a lot of elections and have never lost,” Mr Coveney said. “I have been in politics a long time to know that a week, never mind two weeks, is a long time in politics and I’m the kind of person that when I start something, I will finish it.
“I am not naive — clearly there is a lot of momentum for Leo and good luck to him.”
Strategists close to Mr Coveney are reported to have described a win as “technically difficult” but have refused to concede defeat.
Despite mounting speculation that Mr Coveney was set to pull the plug on the campaign, the Cork man is determined to continue the fight, starting tonight with a rally of supporters in Cork.
Mr Coveney will address party members in the Capitol on Grand Parade at 8pm in a bid to shore up support on home turf.
Particularly damaging for Mr Coveney has been the silence of the only other senior Minister from Cork, Michael Creed.
The Minister for Agriculture has yet to speak publicly about the campaign. While the Coveney camp is insisting the votes of grassroots members and councillors remain ‘plan A’, they are hopeful Mr Creed, together with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Finance Minister Michael Noonan, will speak out in a show of support over the coming days.