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Leo keen to stay on if FG loses election - and insists he's not interested in a big EU job

‘As a last resort’ Varadkar said he’ll go into government with Fianna Fail to avoid another election.

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TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has no plans to take a top job in Europe after this election and wants to lead Fine Gael from the opposition benches. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie’s general election podcast The Candidate, the Fine Gael leader said he thinks he performed best on last night’s RTÉ election debate with Micheál Martin and Mary Lou McDonald. 

Varadkar said he doesn’t believe his party is heading for a 2002 election result, adding that he thinks Fine Gael will get the most seats. 

EU top job

“First of all that is not going to happen. The opinion polls are within the margin of error, we’re all within 5% of each other. And I believe we will emerge as the largest party after this election. But to answer your hypothetical question, if that’s not the case and if we’re in opposition, I will seek to continue to lead my party and assuming I’m elected as a TD in Dublin West, I will continue to represent the good people of Dublin 15 and Dublin 7 who have trusted me with their vote.

“I have not ever been offered any of these wonderful jobs in Europe that people speculate about, I don’t think any of them are available until 2024 anyway,” he said. 

There has been speculation in political circles that Varadkar will have no interest in sitting in the opposition benches, with suggestions that he would be interested in playing a role in Europe, perhaps around Brexit. 

Last year, Varadkar said he was “flattered” to be linked to the role of the new president of the European Commission but said at the time that he plans to stay put in Ireland as Taoiseach.

general-election-ireland-2020 Leo Varadkar was in TheJournal.ie's HQ this morning to take part in our general election podcast The Candidate. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Varadkar again ruled out any coalition with Sinn Féin, stating that he could not see a scenario after the election where he would go back to his party and ask the membership if they would consider or approve the two parties in government together. 

“No, and I can’t. The party is unequivocal about this, as I am, that we won’t entertain a coalition with Sinn Féin for reasons we have explained,” he said. 

When put to him that some ministers, such as Regina Doherty, have stated in the past that she would be open to working with the party, he said she did not mean entering government with Sinn Féin.

“That is not the same thing. I am willing to work with them too, and I have in Northern Ireland and on Brexit and we will work with them on issues. The only people talking about going into government with them, into coalition are Fianna Fáil TDs, all over the country,” he claimed. 

Varadkar said that Martin will go into government with Mary Lou McDonald, because it is his last chance to become Taoiseach. 

I think he has to. If push comes to shove, because this is his third time, leading Fianna Fáil into a general election, it is his last chance to be Taoiseach. There might be a merry dance for a few weeks and months before it happens.
But I believe he would do it. And he’s already getting signals from all over the country from his TDs that they are up for this. I’m getting the opposite, which is no way, don’t even entertain this. So Fianna Fáil is divided on this, my party is united that we would rather go into opposition then help Sinn Féin go into government.

Martin has repeatedly ruled out any coalition with Sinn Féin and denied his party members are open to the idea. 

A last resort 

Who would he go in with? 

“My preference is of course, is, is a coalition with people we’ve worked with in the past like Labour and Independents and people I think we could work with in the future like [the] Greens and maybe the Social Democrats. But I have said that in a last resort scenario, in order to avoid an unnecessary second election, that we’d be willing to work with Fianna Fáil in those circumstances and I think that’d be the responsible thing to do.”

He said it would not be “desirable” but something he is willing to do.

Does Varadkar see himself standing side-by-side with Micheál Martin in government after Saturday’s vote?  

“I certainly hope not,” he said, adding that he intends to lead a new government with some of the smaller parties. “I hope that is what the people decide to do on Saturday,” said Varadkar, adding: 

I really loving this job and I  feel I am only getting started.

 


Source: The Candidate/SoundCloud

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