Simon Coveney warns against divisive FG leadership contest

Fine Gael Minister says he is content to allow Enda Kenny depart on his own terms

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has warned against a potentially divisive leadership contest within Fine Gael.

Speaking at the annual Easter Rising commemorations yesterday, Mr Coveney and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar insisted they were content to allow Mr Kenny depart on his own terms.

Despite improving opinion polls for the party, the Minister for Housing said he believed Mr Kenny would put the leadership contest in place by the summer recess.

Mr Coveney believes the process will commence very quickly after that with a result expected within 20 days.


However, the Minister warned of potential difficulties while the contest is underway.

Mr Coveney said: “The big challenge for us is making sure we keep the party together through that and have a functioning Government through that process.

“That is a big challenge for the party. These competitive leadership processes tend to be divisive and we can’t afford it.”

Mr Coveney and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar are the frontrunners in the race to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny as party leader.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Education Richard Bruton are also said to be considering potential leadership bids.

European Council meeting

The Taoiseach has said he will make his intentions known after the key European Council meeting on April 29th.

However, some within the party fear he will not depart from his position until later in the year.

Asked if he was concerned the Taoiseach may continuously delay the change in leadership, Mr Varadkar said he had never been quite sure of Mr Kenny’s timeline.

He insisted he had been listening to a lot of speculation but he was happy to allow Mr Kenny make his own mind up.

The Minister added: “I am very confident that the party will be united and more importantly emerge united from any leadership contest.

“It is going to be a really good opportunity for the party to have a really good debate about how the party can be organised, about the future of the party itself, what the party stands for, what we intend to do in Government in the future.”

The mechanics of how the leadership campaign will be run have also been discussed by the party’s executive council.

Fine Gael is preparing for the election to take place during Dáil term time, with debates and voting taking place over successive weekends.

The leadership will be decided by an electoral college which gives 65 per cent of voting weight to the parliamentary party, 10 per cent to councillors, and 25 per cent to ordinary members. TDs, Senators and MEPs will be last to cast their ballots.