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With coffee for the assembled media, Leo and Paschal are the two boys brewing a new leadership

He might have a healthy lead over Simon Coveney but Leo knows the race isn’t won before it’s run.

Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe arrive on Leo Street this morning with coffee for the assembled press.
Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe arrive on Leo Street this morning with coffee for the assembled press.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

IN WHAT WAS the worst kept secret in contemporary Irish politics, Leo Varadkar officially announced that he was running for the leadership of Fine Gael.

The assembled media laughed. The whole country has known he has been eyeing the top job for years.

The reporters knew what was happening, so too did the photographers and the PR people. The locals weren’t given the memo.

So, as Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe walked up Leo Street, just a stone’s throw from the Mater Hospital in the north inner city Dublin, clutching coffee for the assembled press pack, you could forgive the puzzled looks on passersby.

Margaret Murray was one of the locals watching from a distance. While she doesn’t live on Leo Street, she walked down to see “what all the fuss was about”.

Originally from Sligo, Murray wasn’t overly-enamoured by the spectacle she was witnessing.

“Is there nothing better they can be doing? Just get on with it all really. That’s the last time we’ll see him round these parts anyway. I’ll tell you that for nothing.” Murray had earlier admitted she wasn’t a fan of Fine Gael.

Another woman living on the street wasn’t overly fond of having her front door swarming with journalists and politicians. Her appointment at the local hairdresser was put on hold.

One older man, who “didn’t want his name in the papers”, said he was happy to see politicians in the area.

“I know Paschal. I voted for him last time. It’s nice to see him around these parts. It doesn’t happen all too often these days. It’d take a bit more than a cup of something to persuade me though.”

The coffee Leo brought, incidentally, came from Two Boys Brew, an independent shop nearby. Maybe there was a subtle correlation between the coffee and what the two men were about to embark on.

There were also cakes handed out to the press. The word ‘Leo’ was written in chocolate on them.

So there he was. Leo Varadkar, standing on Leo Street handing out cakes with Leo written on them. While the coffee shop’s name may have covertly conveyed a message, the rest of it was about as subtle as a brick to the face. Paschal Donohoe, who actually represents the residents on Leo Street, openly pledged his support for Varadkar, who he believes is “the right man to lead the party”.

Leo is currently commanding what already looks like an insurmountable lead.

According to TheJournal.ie’s running tally Varadkar has support from 34 of the 73-member parliamentary party (TDs, senators and MEPs) while Coveney has 15.

Under Fine Gael party rules, TDs, senators and MEPs account for 65% of the voting power in the contest, councillors account for 10% and general party members make up 25%.

20170519_114411

IMG_20170519_113048 Leo and Paschal address the media.

But with all the talk of new social contracts and wanting to have the support of the entire Fine Gael grassroots, he was gone, jumping into an Audi and driven away back to plot his next course of action.

Leo knows he has quite the head start and seems to be racing ahead of Simon Coveney. But he also knows that there’s a long way to go.

“I’m not counting my chickens,” he told reporters.

“I’m really humbled at the level of support I have received from my colleagues. I really looking forward to the hustings and the debates.”

The message to the Fine Gael party from Leo is that he’s the man for the job, he commands the required support and he’s in it for the long run.

The message for the media? Let them eat cake.

Read: Leo finally makes an appearance on the campaign trail, as two more ministers declare support >

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