Simon Coveney hopes to ‘unite country behind Fine Gael’

Minister hands in papers to enter leadership race but declines to say how much he will spend

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has insisted he will run a positive campaign to become Fine Gael leader but declined to state how much he will spend on the contest.

Mr Coveney was surrounded by colleagues including Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister of State Damien English as he handed in his nomination papers at Fine Gael headquarters on Thursday.

He said it was his ambition to make Fine Gael a fighting force and to unite the country behind the party. The Cork South Central TD is regarded, along with Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar, as one of the frontrunners in the contest.

A successor to Enda Kenny, who stood aside as Fine Gael leader on Wednesday but is to stay on as Taoiseach for now, will be appointed on June 2nd. An Irish Times tracker of the FG leadership race has Mr Coveney trailing Mr Varadkar at present.


Mr Coveney declined to answer questions on whether his supporters had been engaged in negative campaigning. He said he would run a positive campaign and outline his vision for the country.

“The party is going to have a very competitive process here that hopefully brings out the best in people, that unites the party, that strengthens the party,” he said. “When this is all over I hope we will come together focused on providing strong Government with big ideas.”

Asked how much he intends to spend on his contest, Mr Coveney said he could not answer that question.

He said he intended to write to the membership of Fine Gael and travel across the State to meet councillors and party supporters. That comes with hotel and travel costs, Mr Coveney said.

However, he insisted he would not spend much above that.

Mr Varadkar has requested that spending limits be imposed on candidates in the leadership race.

Mr Coveney was supported by Mr Harris, Mr English, Ministers of State David Staunton and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, TDs Kate O'Connell and Maria Bailey and Senators Colm Burke, John O'Mahony. Paudie Coffey, Jerry Buttimer, Tim Lombard and Gabrielle McFadden.