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Varadkar said that the claims were "definitely not" fair and justified his leadership of Fine Gael. Alamy Stock Photo
Leo Varadkar

'Definitely not fair': Varadkar rejects claims that his leadership of Fine Gael is in 'drift'

Minister Simon Harris said criticisms of Varadkar’s leadership were “simply an issue that doesn’t arise”.

THE TAOISEACH HAS shut down criticisms that his leadership of Fine Gael is in any kind of  “drift”, labelling the claim “not fair”. 

It follows a number of newspaper articles in recent days speculating that a leadership heave may be in the offing. 

An article in the Business Post at the weekend, quoting party insiders, was headlined: Varadkar’s FG leadership under threat from party’s ‘rudderless drift’. 

Sources quoted in the piece speculated that Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris might challenge for the position at some point in the future. 

The Taoiseach, speaking this morning at the National Economic Dialogue (NED) event at Dublin Castle, said that the claims were “definitely not” fair and sought to defend his record as leader of the party. 

“We’re a party that has achieved so much, over the last six years under my leadership,” he told reporters. 

“We’ve full employment and for only the second time in the history of the state, we have a budget surplus, we’ve high life expectancy because of the improvements in our health service.

“I could go on [but] I don’t think most of my colleagues have any doubts about how much [has been] achieved by my party in Government in the past six years, under my leadership.”

Speaking at the same event later this morning Harris said he is “clearly not” working against the party leader and that criticisms of Varadkar’s leadership were “simply an issue that doesn’t arise”.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney – who ran against Varadkar for the top job in 2017 – described the Taoiseach as an “extremely talented” politician and said that he is giving “very strong leadership”, particularly in the context of the economy.

IMG_7425 Both ministers said they had confidence in the Taoiseach's leadership. Muiris O'Cearbhaill Muiris O'Cearbhaill

Asked by reporters, neither minister said they would be interested in running to take over as leader. 

Coveney said: “Leo Varadkar isn’t going to be stepping down. I’m not going to start speculating on hypotheticals, there’s no leadership issue in Fine Gael right now.”

The Taoiseach, Tánaiste and multiple government ministers are meeting today to discuss Budget 2024 with NGOs and advocacy groups during the NED, a public forum and the first part of budgetary affairs.

Varadkar, while addressing the NED today, said a “more cautious approach” to the next budget could “push more people into poverty or financial distress”.

The Taoiseach added that the government must not disregard households who face financial difficulties regardless of the state of the economy.

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