Minister Simon Coveney was defiant as he addressed a gathering of more than 300 people in Athlone on Monday this week (May 20 ), telling them the race for leadership of Fine Gael and the country is not over yet.
Despite Minister Varadkar amassing a seemingly unassailable lead over his opponent in the early stages of the race, Coveney insisted there is still a long way to go.
Addressing the crowd at the Sheraton Athlone Hotel, Minister Coveney said that all it will take is for a half a dozen of his colleagues who have already declared for Varadkar to change their minds, and for a good performance on his part with the other two electoral colleges of councillors and party members, for the race to be thrown wide open.
Minister Coveney said while many TDs had declared for Varadkar in the first 48 hours of the race due to the early momentum created by the Minister for Social Protection’s campaign, he believes they could switch sides once they have heard each contestant’s policies and plans for Ireland moving forward.
Indeed, Minister Coveney played on what he sees as his comprehensive policy base in an effort to convey that he has a more stable vision for the country.
Speaking directly to rural Ireland, he said one of his biggest aims is to address the dominance enjoyed by Dublin over the rest of the country.
Hitting back against Minister Varadkar’s public criticism of his first-time buyers initiative, Coveney said that before its implementation there were no houses being built for first-time buyers, whereas now there are thousands of homes being constructed.
At the time of writing (Wednesday ), Minister Varadkar has amassed a healthy lead over his rival, with 45 per cent of Fine Gael TDs, senators and MEPs declaring their support for him against Minister Coveney’s 20 per cent.