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Campaign For Leo website was set up last year - but Leo says it 'wasn't prep for leadership contest'

A spokesperson for the Minister said it was a slogan used for his online presence since 2007.

FINE GAEL Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THE PAST TWO nights have seen the Fine Gael leadership contest step up a gear with the first hustings between Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.

Coveney hit out at Varadkar over just how long the Minister for Social Protection had been laying the groundwork for contest.

“I don’t think it’s such a bad thing in politics to be prepared,” Varadkar told the crowd,

I was pretty prepared in the last couple of days, and as a famous man from Cork said, it was Roy Keane of course, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.

Shortly after, Coveney followed up this comment:

I think it might be better that I don’t comment on the preparedness in relation to this campaign. This preparation was going on for about 12 months from what I understand.

Varadkar came back with a brief and to-the-point answer:

In terms of preparation, the Taoiseach indicated in February that he would step down, and I can assure you that’s when preparations began for my team, and not before.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

However, information filed with the IEDR – the organisation with manages the ownership of .ie domains – reveals the website used for Varadkar’s campaign was created before then.

CampaignForLeo.ie was registered on 5 September 2016, the records show, some five months before Enda Kenny announced he planned to step down.

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This website offers policy documents, information about Varadkar and his background,  as well as other campaign material.

LeoVaradkar.ie, the website used previously by the Minister, now redirects to the CampaignForLeo.ie site.

An email address attached to the domain began issuing press releases to this publication on 18 May, although it is possible other @campaignforleo.ie addresses were active before this time.

The first activity on the site to be recorded by the Wayback Machine, a website dedicating to archiving the web, was the following day on 19 May.

Is this an indication that the wheels began to slowly move on Varadkar’s campaign as far back as five months before he said they did? Not so, according to a spokesperson for the campaign.

They told TheJournal.ie that the creation of the domain was part of a move to create consistency across Varadkar’s online presence.

Leo

They said use of the slogan dates back to 2007, adding that the Minister’s two other main online outlets – Facebook and Twitter – both have @CampaignForLeo as their usernames (as seen above), the latter being active as far back as the end of 2010.

However, despite LeoVaradkar.ie being registered in 2007, it was only decided to switch the website to Campaign For Leo brand recently.

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“It makes perfect sense” to keep this uniform, they said, and stressed that the creation of the domain in September was not connected to the Varadkar’s preparation for the leadership contest.

The suggestion that website was created at a time when the leadership contest was starting to appear on the horizon was dismissed as “codology”.

The contest began in earnest on May 17, when Enda Kenny announced he was stepping down as Taoiseach, but there had been rumblings of that taking place for months, if not years.

Almost a year ago in June 2016, it was speculated that might set out a timeline for his departure at a parliamentary party meeting after growing unrest among backbench TDs that month, but he kept tight-lipped.

Now it’s out in the open, and things are heating up between the two candidates, both long seen as potential successors to Enda Kenny.

The next hustings takes place this evening in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.

Read: Fine Gael has overtaken Fianna Fáil for first time since general election >

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Nicky Ryan

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