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Dublin: 19 °C Monday 1 June, 2020


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LEO VARADKAR IS the new leader of Fine Gael.

The Dublin TD was elected today after a long battle with colleague Simon Coveney. Although he lost the vote of the grassroots members comprehensively, Varadkar won significant support from local councillors and the parliamentary party.

The final count, including all three electoral colleges, saw him win with 60% to Coveney’s 40%. The electoral college breakdown was as follows:

  • Parliamentary party: 70:30
  • Local public representatives: 55:45
  • Membership: 65:35

He is being reported across the world as Ireland’s next prime minister – with most outlets describing him as gay man and son of an immigrant.

We followed the action all day (see below). And, here’s some more reading for you tonight, if you fancy:

We’ll be back in the morning with more analysis and coverage from our political team.


Afternoon, folks. It’s Christine Bohan here, following all the events from the Mansion House where the count starting a short time ago.

Got any thoughts on the leadership battle? Leave a comment below, mail me at or tweet me @christinebohan.

Here’s how the count centre looked in the last few minutes:

FG 1 Source: Christina Finn/

FG 2 Source: Christina Finn/

Here’s how things are going to play out this afternoon.

Fine Gael’s 50 TDs, 4 MEPs, 19 Senators, 235 councillors and around 21,000 party members were all eligible to vote.

Councillors and party members have been voting all wek, but TDs cast their votes this morning at Leinster House.

The 73 members of the parliamentary party – in other words, the TDs, Senators and MEPs – will make up for 65% of the overall vote. The party member will account for 25% of the vote, while councillors make up the final 10%.

The votes of the party members are currently being counted.

Our political reporter Christina Finn is at the Mansion House and has been talking to Fine Gael-ers about what they make of the leadership contest. 

From Christina:

Senator Jerry Buttimer told that as a member of the National Exec they would have to reflect on the new process of the contest. “It was great that members have had their say… this process has really engaged the membership and the grassroots have had their voices heard and will say who they want.”

The contest has moved from one of personalities to policies, he says, adding that this can only mean good things for the popularity of the party going forward

On the Coveney campaign he says he knows they got off to a slow start but Coveney’s talent shone as he travelled around the country. ‘Irrespective of who is the next leader is, we all have to unite as a party”.

A very honest line from one member of Fine Gael. From Christina in the Mansion House: 

One TD says the campaign and the “transparent” process is a real sign of true democracy. Says that having all the coverage has basically been free PR for the party.

Interesting initial tallies from the count of the membership votes. 

Christina says that the membership vote so far is leaning towards Coveney, with some suggestions that it could be as high as 70:30 in favour of Coveney over Varadkar.

Given that so many members of the parliamentary party have declared for Varadkar, this could be bad news for Fine Gael.

As Christina says:

“It would mean that Coveney’s message resonated with the members, even though their votes don’t count as much.”

It’s Sinéad O’Carroll taking over from Christine for the rest of the evening.

Current tallies are showing a commanding lead for Coveney among the grassroots – but it may not matter in the end…

There’s a lot of chat on social media right now about how the Fine Gael parliamentary party was out of touch with what its members wanted.

One Coveney supporter has just told Christina that the vote is going as they expected.

The support in the grassroots is strong. Just how strong, we’ll know soon enough.

A number of international journalists have already taken notice of this leadership battle – mostly because of the headlines the likely outcome will bring.


Today, there are a number of global media outlets present at the Mansion House.

People are waiting patiently for a result at the Mansion House… which we expect soon from the membership vote.


More from Christina who is still wandering around the Mansion House too:

One Fine Gaeler tells me the membership vote in favour of Coveney means that Leo won’t be able to “go as Tory as he likes now”.

“He will have to listen to the voices of the party – which are more to the centre. This vote, despite what the media says, won’t be bad news for the party, but it will make sure that Leo will have to reign in some of his ideas now. There is no way he can just run on and do what he likes, because the members backed Coveney.”

simon Harris with Cork CIty Cllr Laura McGonigle Source: Christina Finn/ has been speaking to Simon Harris: ‘It’s great that this is all happening is such a transparent way. You have the media here  - you can see what’s happening, it’s brilliant and new. I am very encouraged by the way the membership seem to have responded to Simon’s positive message and we have a way to go.”

Earlier, he told Newstalk that he wasn’t worried about his job at the Department of Health, adding he will support whoever wins the contest.


Christina Finn, at the Mansion House, is hearing that the final tally of the membership vote is 65:35 in favour of Simon Coveney.



This is how the first electoral college – the Fine Gael membership – voted.

Simon Coveney: 7,051

Leo Varadkar: 3,772

Now it’s time to count councillors and parliamentary party members – they really have more of a say on what happens.

We should have a result soon, however, as the numbers are considerably smaller.


For the record, 622 people are watching Fine Gael’s livestream – in case there’s any confusion later.

*puts tongue firmly in cheek*

OFFICIAL VOTE from the Electoral College of local councillors

Leo Varadkar 123

Simon Coveney 100


So we just have one more declaration – that of the parliamentary party.

If we’re to get a shock result – a win for Simon Coveney – the Cork man will have to secure the votes of the six undeclared PP members and turn six others.

We’re hearing it hasn’t been done though – and not even close.

Tallies suggest that Leo Varadkar will be leader within minutes… and perhaps Taoiseach within weeks? (But there’s a LOT of politics to be lived between now and then)


Parliamentary party has voted for Leo, overwhelmingly, as expected.

Varadkar 51 

Coveney 22

Leo will be officially named leader in two minutes.


And we have the final declaration in the 2017 Fine Gael leadership election.

Final overall result: 

Leo Varadkar: 60%

Simon Coveney 40%

“Well my children will be pleased,” Coveney opens his address.

Varadkar is beside him, looking pleased with himself.

“This has been a fantastic process and experience for this party… I hope… that this party has had an opportunity to look in the mirror,” he adds, saying he is proud of Fine Gael.

He describes the contest as sparky but dignified.

The international coverage of Leo’s possible election had already started. This is how BBC News alerted its readers in the last few moments.


Varadkar is making his first speech as Fine Gael leader.

He says he accepts the position humbly.


Varadkar says that Enda Kenny passes on a country and party in a better place that what he found it.

He also thanks Fionnuala Kenny, as Enda’s advisor and tower of strength.

He describes Simon Coveney’s campaign as ‘spirited, principled and persistent’.

To a huge and sustained round of applause, Varadkar notes that his win today shows that prejudice has no hold in this Republic.

“Every boy and girl can no there is no limit to their ambition, to their possibilities,” he adds.

Earlier, he said his father would never have dreamed on travelling to Ireland that his son would one day become its leader.


More from Leo’s speech:

“I think if my election as leader of Fine Gael today has shown us anything it is that prejudice has no hold on this Republic…

When my father travelled… I doubt he ever dreamed that his son would one day grow up to become its leader and despite his differences, his son would be treated the same and judged by his actions and character, and not by his ardents and identity.

And so every proud parent in Ireland today can dream big dreams for their children; every boy and girl can know that there is no limits to their ambition, to their possibilities, if they are given the opportunity. So let that be our mission as Fine Gael, to build an Ireland – a Republic of opportunity. One which every individual is given the opportunity to meet their full potential and every part of the country is given its opportunity to share in our prosperity.

Simon Coveney has made a swift exit from the Mansion House… and Dublin.

He’s heading to Cork as it’s his young daughter’s birthday.

He was seemingly heard telling a team member to ’be sure to buy everyone a few drinks’.

It is the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend, after all.

This is interesting.

The international coverage is coming thick and fast now – and there’s just the one narrative.

leo international

Leo Varadkar just held his first press conference as the new FG leader. Here’s what we learned:

  • The Independent alliance members are staying put in their ministries (they’ll be relieved)
  • Varadkar says Enda should have a role in the party into the future
  • When asked if Frances Fitzgerald will stay on as Tanaiste he said that she is going “a really great job” and thanked her for her support – so, it looks like she might be safe.
  • He won’t rule out going into coalition with Fianna Fail
  • He wants a referendum on the Eighth Amendment next year
  • Varadkar plans to ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this year (says it is something they have been really slow on)
  • The Government retains confidence in the Garda Commissioner

And that’s it for today.

To recap, Leo Varadkar has become the leader of Fine Gael after winning the election by a 60:40 margin over Simon Coveney. The electoral college breakdown was as follows:

  • Parliamentary party: 70:30 
  • Local public representatives: 55:45
  • Membership: 65:35

He is being reported across the world as Ireland’s next prime minister – with most outlets describing him as gay man and son of an immigrant.

Here’s some more reading for you tonight, if you fancy:

We’ll be back in the morning with more analysis and coverage from our political team.

Good night!