Leo Varadkar determined that Fine Gael reclaim Dáil seat in Longford

Varadkar plays down talk of Simon Coveney fightback in Fine Gael leadership race during visit to Longford

Liam Cosgrove

Reporter:

Liam Cosgrove

Email:

liam.cosgrove@longfordleader.ie


Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has this morning batted off suggestions Simon Coveney is closing the gap in the race to become the next leader of Fine Gael.

Mr Varadkar was speaking just hours after the party held its first hustings event in Dublin.

Asked directly by the Leader as to his take on last night's proceedings, Mr Varadkar opted instead to focus on his decision to visit Longford and address local employers at a business seminar.

"It's a pleasure to be here in Longford to meet some members of the business community and Fine Gael members to talk to them about the new benefits my department has in place to support people who are self employed and to people who run their own benefits," he said.

"More importantly (my visit) is to hear from them and about some of the issues affect them as business people, issues such as rates and infrastructure to make sure the economic recovery is broad based and visits all part of the country."

Mr Varadkar, who currently enjoys a healthy lead over Mr Coveney in the leadership race attempted to clarify his much publicised comments of rewarding "people who get up early in the morning".

When asked by the Leader as to why he chose to reference certain sections of society such as private and public sector workers, parents, the self employed and not farmers, of which Longford is home to a larget cohort, Mr Varadkar was again forthright in his response.

"I think everyone knows farmers do get up early in the morning.

"I will certainly work that into my speech in the next little while.

"What I am talking about is ensuring Fine Gael as a party that champions and prioritises people who work in the country, people who are in employment in the private and public sector, self employed, farmers but also people like carers for example and parents.

For more on this story, see next week's Longford Leader.