Fine Gael leadership: Varadkar not fearful of losing supporters

The two Ministers will go head-to-head in the first debate in Dublin on Thursday night

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar  and Minister for Housing Simon Coveney will make a 10-minute address on Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and Minister for Housing Simon Coveney will make a 10-minute address on Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times

 

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has insisted he is not fearful of people deflecting from his campaign to Minister for Housing Simon Coveney.

Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney will go head-to-head at the first Fine Gael leadership husting.

Up to 800 members of the party are expected to attend the Red Cow Hotel in Co Dublin.

Mr Coveney has insisted his performance at the hustings might entice others to support him in the Fine Gael contest.

However, Mr Varadkar said those who are supportive of him are not for changing despite his rival’s attempts.

He claimed it was an “interesting strategy” trying to convincing people to reverse what they said in public.

Mr Varadkar denied he would be rallying his troops to ensure they did not change their minds.

He said: “I do not think I need to do that. I will do what I always do with TDs, Senators and councillors and MEPs is to be available and to talk to them regularly.”

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, Kildare TDs Bernard Durkan and Martin Heydon, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have yet to state who they are supporting. MEPs Seán Kelly and Maireád McGuinness are also yet to declare.

Mr Kenny and Mr Noonan are not expected to say who they would support, since they have held the position of Fine Gael leader. Mr Heydon also keeps his vote secret because of his position as chairman of the parliamentary party.

The majority of TDs and Senators have supported Mr Varadkar with 46 members compared to 20 for Mr Coveney.

The parliamentary party has 65 per cent of the vote, while the councillors and the members retain the other 35 per cent.

The leadership hustings, which will be chaired by businessman Gavin Duffy, will take place over four nights.

The first will be in Dublin tonight followed by Carlow, Ballinasloe and Cork.

Each candidate will make a 10-minute address, followed by pre-selected questions and then 30 minutes of live questions from the audience.