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totally zen

Leo Varadkar says he's 'totally zen' about Enda's departure

The Fine Gael parliamentary party meets again tonight.

SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Leo Varadkar has said he’s relaxed about the expected leadership contest in Fine Gael.

To be more precise, he said he was “totally zen” about the issue, and that he would set out his plans for the future of the party once a vacancy arose.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in advance of his March trip to Washington that he would address the issue of his leadership “conclusively” after he returned.

However, speaking in New York on that St Patrick’s Day trip – after his visit to the White House – he insisted there were other priorities he had to deal with.

During a press conference on a Canadian trip last week, Kenny admonished an Irish journalist for asking about his plans to step down, telling the Irish Examiner’s Daniel McConnell “I can’t believe actually that you have travelled this distance to ask a question like that”.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party meets again tonight, but sources in the party say it’s unlikely Kenny will make any major announcement.

Asked when he expected the Taoiseach to make his plans known, Varadkar said on Morning Ireland:

I haven’t a clue and I’m totally zen about it at this stage.
So the vacancy arises when it does, and in the meantime I’ll continue doing my job.

Nicky McFadden funeral Brian Lawless Brian Lawless

The Dublin TD’s main rival for the leadership, Housing Minister Simon Coveney, used similar language about the Taoiseach’s expected announcement back in March, telling Drivetime he was “pretty relaxed” about Kenny’s New York comments.

Summer campaign?

There’s been speculation the contest won’t begin until the start of the Dáil break – however, speaking at the weekend, according to the Irish Times, Coveney suggested the formal contest could begin before TDs rise for the summer.

One Fine Gael politician, speaking at Leinster House yesterday, said the Taoiseach would be wise to go soon before another scandal surfaces, in order to “go out on a high” and protect his legacy.

Asked about his campaigning efforts within the party today, Varadkar insisted he was “doing my day job pretty hard”, but conceded he was also shoring up support around the country.

He had been out meeting members and councillors, he said – as he always does. “Obviously there’s a new context to it now and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.”

A poll of the 73 members of the FG parliamentary party carried out by RTÉ’s Martina Fitzgerald this week found that 23 would support Varadkar. 13 said they would prefer Coveney.

mart Martina Fitzgerald Martina Fitzgerald

Fine Gael elects its leader through an electoral college system with votes weighted according to a member’s status in the party.

The parliamentary party (TDs, Senators and MEPs) accounts for 65% of the overall vote, councillors have 10% of the vote and ordinary members have 25%. To be a candidate you must be nominated by at least a tenth of the parliamentary party.

- With reporting from Christina Finn 

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