Coveney team member may face sanctions over tweet

Sister of TD claimed Mitchell O’Connor is supporting Varadkar to save her ministry


A member of Simon Coveney’s campaign team in the Fine Gael leadership race is facing sanctions from party headquarters after claiming on Twitter that Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor is supporting Leo Varadkar in order to save her ministerial post.

The claim by Theresa Newman, a sister of Dublin TD Kate O’Connell and her parliamentary assistant, was made in a tweet posted during the final Fine Gael hustings in Cork on Sunday night.

Ms Newman posted a picture of Ms Mitchell O’Connor waving a placard in support of Mr Varadkar during the hustings in the Silver Springs Hotel, the venue for the most charged debate of the campaign.

Along with the picture, Ms Newman wrote: “There’s MMOC working to keep her job in the Ministry of Jobs, fair play to her. #CoveneyForLeader.”

The post on the social media site has caused anger within Fine Gael, and comes after Ms O’Connell, a Dublin Bay South TD, was previously involved in controversy when she claimed Mr Varadkar’s supporters were “choirboys” who were “singing for their supper”.

Ms O’Connell was contacted by Fine Gael headquarters after the comments and told to refrain from launching further attacks. Party sources also say it is likely Ms Newman will face some form of sanctions or disciplinary action, but it is not yet clear what form this might take.


One source said it was “offensive and insulting to say that about a Minister”, and added: “Action will be taken.”

It is unlikely, however, that anything will be done until after the leadership election is concluded.

Another Fine Gael figure said: “It is not good at all. It is a disgrace. It has gone down very poorly in the party.”

It is understood Ms Newman was also reprimanded by Damien English, Mr Coveney’s campaign manager. She deleted the tweet on Monday. She declined to comment, as did Ms Mitchell O’Connor.

Voting in the leadership contest started on Monday night, with party members casting their ballots in Brussels, as well as in Cork city and Dunmanway, Letterkenny, Mountmellick, the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin, the Park Hotel in Mullingar and Lemybrien, Co Waterford.

Polling station

Turnout was brisk at the polling station in Mullingar. Mr Varadkar was in the town for a campaign stop with local Fine Gael TD Peter Burke. He has a clear lead with parliamentary party colleagues and is also ahead among the party’s county councillors.

Speaking in Cork, Mr Coveney said he could still win the race to succeed Enda Kenny.

The Minister for Housing predicted that sufficient members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party would vote for him to enable him to defeat Mr Varadkar.

“And I believe by the time that Friday comes around, many members will have voted, so when our Oireachtas colleagues vote I think many will see that their membership in their own constituencies will have voted for Simon Coveney and not Leo Varadkar, and I hope they take note of that.”