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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019
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Coveney defiant: 'I think there is a lot of annoyance amongst the FG membership'

The minister has vowed to fight on in the leadership race.

Simon Coveney was launching this his policy priorities today.
Simon Coveney was launching this his policy priorities today.
Image: Twitter/Ronanduffy_

SIMON COVENEY HAS said he will be actively trying to change the minds of Fine Gael TDs who have declared for Leo Varadkar in the party’s leadership battle.

Sounding a defiant note at a policy launch in Dublin today, Coveney rejected the idea that the leadership contest is next to over after the barnstorming start made by Varadkar.

In the first three days of the contest, Varadkar received the backing of at least 44 of the 63 declared Fine Gael parliamentary party members.

That support level, and the fact that parliamentary party members account for 65% of the voting power in the overall contest, has meant that Varadkar’s victory appears almost assured.

But at a rally last night in Cork city and again today in Dublin, Coveney rejected suggestions that he should therefore stand aside.

The minister said that no votes have yet been cast and that he will be trying to win back the support of TDs and Senators who have declared for Varadkar.

“That is just one part of this contest, there are 232 councillors who want to have their say and there are 20,000 members who want to have their say. And so no Oireachtas colleague has voted yet, they have simply made declarations,” he said.

The new system Fine Gael is running to select its leadership has placed a significant weighting on the votes of parliamentary party members.

Coveney said today that some members are annoyed about how the system has played out.

I think that is potentially a flaw in this new system that we’re operating under. It’s the first time it’s happened. I think there is a lot of annoyance amongst the Fine Gael membership and amongst councillors that actually some people in party seem to be suggesting that because Oireachtas members have made their declarations that this should just move on.

Coveney said politics is a “raw business” and that he wasn’t speaking about fairness, but did say it’s been a “tough few days” seeing TDs and Senators backing Varadkar.

“In our view a week ago, the numbers as we would have looked at them in the parliamentary party would have been split nearly 50/50,” he said.

Coveney said he will be continuing with the planned four hustings across four counties this week, adding that he wants issues to be at the centre of the debate.

Of course this is a personality contest too, in terms of who is best placed to lead the country in the future given the skillsets that are required and the challenges and ambitions that we have, but it is also as I have described it, a fight for the soul of Fine Gael in the future.

Vision

As part of the launch of his personal policy priorities, Coveney spoke about ‘rebuilding trust’ in institutions such as the gardaí and proposed the establishment of an “Anti-Corruption and Transparency Commission”.

He also spoke about ring-fencing funding dedicated to infrastructure projects that would bridge “the urban/rural divide”.

Coveney also spoke about being “an unapologetic nationalist” and committed to producing a white paper document on “how we would propose to unite Ireland”.

“There are some fundamental things that actually go beyond funding in politics almost, and one of those is the relationship north and south on this island,” he said.

Read: Coveney sticks to his guns and says the race is still very much on >

Read: Varadkar on the cusp of victory as Coveney cancels campaign event >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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