Coveney vows to stay in leadership race at Cork rally

Minister for Housing says he will ‘hug’ Leo Varadkar if his rival wins Fine Gael contest

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney TD spoke about unity at his Fine Gael leadership campaign rally in Cork. Video: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

 

Simon Coveney told supporters at a rally in Cork on Saturday night that if his rival Leo Varadkar wins the Fine Gael leadership contest, he will “shake his hand” and perhaps even “give him a hug”.

Speaking at the campaign event at The Capitol, the Minister for Housing emphasised that he was far from finished in the leadership race, despite Mr Varadkar’s lead.

“I am feeling good. This is the start of a process that I am looking forward to. I think we are going to make a very strong statement this evening that this process is just getting under way and the 21,000 people who will have a vote in two-weeks’ time are going to get involved from now on.

“I am looking forward to facilitating that. No second thoughts I am afraid. That is not my style.”

- Fine Gael leadership tracker: Track the contest and check who your local TD, Senator, MEP and councillor is supporting.

Mr Coveney had cancelled a media event in his own constituency earlier on Saturday in order to meet with councillors and fellow TDs to discuss his campaign.

Anne Lise Coveney joins her father Simon Coveney at a Fine Gael leadership campaign at a rally in Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Anne Lise Coveney joins her father Simon Coveney at a Fine Gael leadership campaign at a rally in Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

On Saturday, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring backed Mr Varadkar’s leadership campaign, in another blow to Mr Coveney.

Senator Joe O’Reilly and Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne also declared for Mr Varadkar on Saturday afternoon, following earlier endorsements by Joe Carey, Senator Kieran O’Donnell and Minister of State for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen.

The only Cabinet member who has publicly come out in support of Mr Coveney is Minister for Health Simon Harris.

In total, Mr Varadkar has secured the backing of eight Cabinet Ministers and a majority of the parliamentary party.

Uphill battle

Mr Varadkar’s “shock-and-awe” strategy in the early days of the race has left Mr Coveney facing an uphill battle.

Mr Coveney will visit party members across the country in the coming days and take part in the forthcoming leadership debates.

Votes from the parliamentary party, that is, TDs and Senators, account for 65 per cent of the overall vote, with 25 per cent of the vote coming from party members and the remaining 10 per cent from councillors.

Mr Coveney needs in the region of 70 per cent of the votes of Fine Gael councillors in order to win the race.

The campaign is set to last for two weeks, with the leadership result announced on Friday, June 2nd.