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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Varadkar on the cusp of victory as Coveney cancels campaign event

Simon Coveney is due to speak at a rally later tonight.

LEO Leo Varadkar launching his campaign in Dublin today. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

A SIMON COVENEY campaign event was cancelled this afternoon amid speculation that the Cork minister is considering pulling out of the race to be Fine Gael leader.

The event was due to be held at Coveney’s constituency office at 2pm but did not go ahead. Coveney is due to speak at a campaign rally at the Capitol Building in Cork City at 8pm tonight.

In a tweet this afternoon, Coveney confirmed that the event would be going ahead. His campaign team have also insisted that he will not be leaving the race.

In Dublin, Leo Varadkar officially launched his candidacy this afternoon and secured a number of other potentially decisive endorsements.

At the launch at the Dublin City Council head offices in Wood Quay, Varadkar promised Coveney the offer of a place in a future cabinet should he be elected Taoiseach.

Varadkar declined to make the same commitment to Minister Simon Harris.

Speaking at the packed event, Varadkar described rival candidate Coveney as an “honourable” and “diligent” man .

Tánaiste France Fitzgerald also became the latest minister to row in behind Varadkar’s candidacy and introduced him at today’s launch.

It meant that a total of 44 of the 63 declared Fine Gael parliamentary party members have opted to support Varadkar’s bid for the leadership of the party.

Given that parliamentary party members account for 65% of the voting power in the overall contest, Varadkar’s victory is approaching a mathematical certainty.

leo An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald confirmed her support for Varadkar today Source: Sam Boal

Asked by reporters about his potential cabinet, Varadkar made it clear he wants Coveney on his team should his be confirmed as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach.

“In relation to Minister Coveney, all I can say is that I’ve known him for over 10 years now. I have worked with him in cabinet and he’s an honourable man, a diligent man, ” the Minister for Social Protection said.

He has enormous patience, I wish I had the patience that Simon Coveney has, it’s one of his enormous strengths. And certainly if I’m unsuccessful in this campaign I hope he will then allow me to be on his team and equally if he’s unsuccessful in this campaign and I’m elected I would hope he would be available to be on my team.

Varakar would not offer any similar assurances to any other current minister.

Health Minister Simon Harris was the only senior cabinet member to support Coveney’s bid for the leadership.

Asked whether he would like Harris in a future cabinet he may lead, Varadkar would not make the same pledge he made to Coveney.

“As regards anyone else, no jobs have been promised and I haven’t sat down to decide who might or might not be in a future cabinet, my focus solely at this time has been on the campaign,” Varadkar said.

Read: Day Three: It could be all over bar the shouting as Frances Fitzgerald declares for Leo >

Read: Simon was out early as the battle began in Fine Gael … we’re still waiting for Leo >

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Rónán Duffy

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