Varadkar rejects suggestion of impeding O’Connell byelection run

Tánaiste says he is ‘sorry’ former Fine Gael TD decided not to put her name forward

Former Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell pictured with Leo Varadkar in 2018. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Former Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell pictured with Leo Varadkar in 2018. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

 

Vivienne Clarke

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says he is “sorry” former Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell has decided not to put her name forward as a possible candidate for the Dublin Bay South byelection but, he stressed, it was her decision.

Mr Varadkar rejected any suggestion that the party leadership was opposed to her running.

“The position I took was I was not taking sides,” he said.

In a radio interview last Friday, Ms O’Connell said her working relationship with Mr Varadkar never recovered from the 2017 party leadership campaign in which she had supported Simon Coveney and had described Mr Varadkar’s backers as “choirboys” who were “singing for their supper”.

Ruling herself out of seeking the nomination for Fine Gael for the byelection, she said: “There has been a faction, I would feel, within the party since the leadership campaign which I thought had long gone out with the tide, who have long planned the exit of myself.”

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland on Monday, Mr Varadkar was asked whether he cut Ms O’Connell out of the byelection nomination process.

“No,” the Tánaiste replied. Ms O’Connell was a “very effective TD” but Fine Gael was a democratic party and it was up to the local branch to select who to run in Dublin Bay South.

Ms O’Connell took the view she would not have the support of local members, he said. “I am sorry she took that decision but it was a decision she took for herself.”