One-third of Fine Gael electorate are in Simon Coveney’s base

Varadkar’s heartland contains just 10% of FG members who can vote in leadership contest

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, who has a commanding lead in the Fine Gael leadership contest so far. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, who has a commanding lead in the Fine Gael leadership contest so far. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

More than one-third of Fine Gael members eligible to vote in the party’s leadership contest are based in Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s Munster heartland.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar’s Dublin base accommodates just under 10 per cent of the 21,000-strong electorate entitled to cast their ballots from next Monday. However, the other Leinster counties are home to 32 per cent of the membership.

This includes areas of the country with strong clusters of party members and where Mr Varadkar has already secured the backing of local TDs.

An example is Carlow-Kilkenny, where constituency TDs John Paul Phelan and Pat Deering are supporting Mr Varadkar’s candidacy. It has 1,390 registered members, the third-largest cluster in the country.

- Fine Gael leadership tracker: Track the contest and check who your local TD, Senator, MEP and councillor is supporting.

In total, Munster accounts for 7,205 or 34 per cent of all 21,064 members entitled to vote, with Ulster accounting for 7 per cent; and Connacht 18 per cent. Fine Gael officials anticipate an overall turnout of around 50 per cent.

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The Fine Gael leadership will be decided by an electoral college which gives party TDs, senators and MEPs 65 per cent of the vote, councillors 10 per cent and rank and file members 25 per cent.

In total, figures seen by The Irish Times show there will be 21,064 peopled entitled to vote as ordinary rank and file members, including 14 who will cast their ballots at the offices of the European People’s Party (EPP) in Brussels.

The remaining 21,050 will vote at another 24 polling stations between next Monday and Thursday, with voting open between 6pm and 10pm.

The parliamentary party will vote in Leinster House between 8am and noon on June 2nd.

It is understood each polling station will be attended to by staff from Fine Gael headquarters, with a representative from each of the Coveney and Varadkar campaigns also present.

Commanding lead

Mr Varadkar has a commanding lead in the race so far, ahead 46-20 among the 73 members of the parliamentary party. When councillors who have declared are also taken into account, The Irish Times puts Mr Varadkar’s lead at 45 percentage points to Mr Coveney’s 20 percentage points of the 75 per cent available from parliamentary and local representatives.

Mr Coveney has pinned his hopes of a comeback on a campaign focused on the party grassroots, in the hope members will also then convince their local TDs and senators to switch allegiance from Mr Varadkar.

One polling station which encompasses three Cork constituencies has the highest number of individual members. Cork East, Cork North Central and Cork South Central have 1,550 members and all local members of the parliamentary party have declared their support for Mr Coveney.

In Clare, however, which has 705 members, the two local TDs, Pat Breen and Joe Carey, and local senator Martin Conway, are all supporting Mr Varadkar. His team has prepared a “get out the vote” operation for party members, which will involve helping people travel to each polling station.

Under the plan, one person is responsible for members in each Dáil constituency.

In some instances, one person is also responsible for individual party branches around the country.