Junior Minister Andrew Doyle is latest to declare for Varadkar
Supporter says Varadkar has finger on ‘the pulse of the zeitgeist’ and ‘is a thoroughbred’
Minister for Health and Fine Gael TD Simon Harris and party leadership candidate Simon Coveney at the launch of the latter’s policy document in the Dean Hotel in Dublin’s City Centre. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Mr Doyle is Minister of State for Agriculture and a constituency colleague of Minister for Health Simon Harris, one of Simon Coveney’s key ministerial allies.
FG leadership tracker: Track the contest and check who your local TD, Senator, MEP and councillor is supporting.
However, Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey said some of the Ministers who had declared their support for Mr Varadkar could be swayed to vote for Mr Coveney.
“He can win back through discussion and dialogue,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“We have to allow due process and to win those people back,” said Ms Bailey, who has declared for Mr Coveney.
Video: Varadkar leadership manifesto launch
Explaining her reasons for supporting Mr Varadkar, Josepha Madigan TD said he had his finger on “the pulse of the zeitgeist” and “is a thoroughbred” with a “honed intellect”.
Ms Madigan echoed Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe’s comment that Mr Varadkar was “the most capable politician of my generation”.
“He has that je ne sais quoi,” she told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show. “He will be bold and ambitious. He will be decisive.
“He is a person of great aptitude and capability. He reaches out to the backbenches and listens to people. He values their input.”
On the same programme, fellow TD David Stanton described Simon Coveney as “a fighter” who would not give up despite Mr Varadkar’s early lead in public declarations.
Mr Stanton said that the four face-to-face debates on the hustings this week could sway the membership.
The Fine Gael leadership contest will be decided by an electoral college which is split three ways between the parliamentary party – TDs, senators and MEPs – councillors, and rank and file members.
The 21,000 members are allocated 25 per cent of the overall vote, with 65 per cent for the parliamentary party and 10 per cent for councillors.
According to The Irish Times leadership tracker, Mr Varadkar currently leads 44 per cent to 20 per cent. You can follow our leadership tracker here.
Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly said he wanted Simon Coveney to remain in the contest as it was an opportunity for party members to become involved.
“This is an opportunity to engage with members, to revitalise the party,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. “It would be terrible if one withdrew.”
“It is important that members get to assess both candidates and feel involved. Otherwise they would be disengaged.”
He said the party would be more united after the new leader is elected and that he felt whoever wins will have the other candidate in an important role in government afterwards.