FG leadership: Varadkar says he is not ‘counting his chickens yet’

The Dublin-based TD says he is ‘very keen to get out around the country’ during contest

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar speaking to the media on Leo Street in Dublin  leadership of Fine Gael. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar speaking to the media on Leo Street in Dublin leadership of Fine Gael. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has insisted the Fine Gael leadership contest is far from over.

Mr Varadkar has received significant support from his Cabinet colleagues including Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys.

The Irish Times tracker has placed Mr Varadkar’s level of support at 35 per cent in comparison to Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s 19 per cent.

Speaking for the first time since the contest was announced, Mr Varadkar insisted he was not “counting his chickens yet” insisting he still has to sell his message to councillors and members.

The Dublin West TD said he had been “humbled” by the level of support from his colleagues in the parliamentary party.

He told reporters: “This is day two of a 16 day campaign. It has gone very well. I am also very keen to get out around the country.”

His ambition, if elected, would be to widen the Fine Gael electorate and to entice voters who lost faith in the party to return.

Mr Varadkar denied he was not “true Fine Gael” in comparison to Minister for Housing Simon Coveney.

He joined the party with no previous family connections or pedigree but was embraced by the members, he said.

Mr Varadkar added: “I have enormous respect for people who come from a strong family background in Fine Gael. Many of them have come out to support me in recent weeks.

“Fine Gael is the party of opportunity and no matter what background you come from we give people a chance and it gave me a chance.”

Mr Varadkar was asked if he was still intent on retiring from politics at 50 as stated previously.

He confirmed he was committed to politics for the foreseeable future and would not be standing down at that point.

Mr Donohoe, meanwhile, has said he believes Mr Varadkar would be a long-term leader for Fine Gael if elected.

Mr Donohoe, who has expressed a desire to run for the leadership in the future, urged his party colleagues to back his Dublin-based colleague.

Asked if he hoped to become leader at some point in the future, the Dublin Central TD said he believed his colleague would be “leader for a long, long, long time”.